Navajo Prep opens postseason on road against Hope Christian
FARMINGTON — The Navajo Prep football team is ready to write a new chapter in the program's history when they go on the road to face Hope Christian on Friday at 7 p.m. at Wilson Stadium in Albuquerque.
Making their first playoff appearance in nearly six years, the Eagles come into the game having finished 3-0 in District 1-3A, tops among teams within the district. Their overall record of 5-5 does come with a caveat, as the team was forced to forfeit three non-district victories earlier this season after self-reporting that an academically ineligible athlete took part in those games.
Those three games, against Crownpoint, Cuba and Espanola Valley, resulted in blowout victories for Navajo Prep being erased.
"We know how we played in those games, so we're using that as our motivation going forward," said Eagles coach Roderick Denetso. "I think the kids are fired up and ready to get after it."
The last time Navajo Prep reached the playoffs resulted in an early exit, when they lost on the road against Santa Rosa 30-22 in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs on Nov. 14, 2015.
In fact, their last two appearances in the postseason have resulted in first round losses. In 2014, they also lost to Santa Rosa at home in a 58-52 shootout.
Their last postseason victory came in 2013, when they advanced to the Class 2A quarterfinals by defeating New Mexico Military Institute 63-45 before losing on the road to Santa Rosa by a final of 54-0.
The ninth-ranked (MaxPreps) Eagles will be turning to their offensive playmakers once again Friday night.
Quarterback Dontrelle Denetso has thrown 13 touchdown passes against only three interceptions, but is perhaps more dangerous outside the pocket, where he has scored 21 rushing touchdowns.
Meantime, Kyler Clitso and Kyun Tate have picked up more than 2100 all-purpose yards this season and have scored a combined 30 touchdowns.
In addition, the Eagles have also gotten strong performances late in the season from receivers Oliver Mohs, Lucius Hale and Xavier Nez.
"Those guys have really stepped up for us of late," Denetso said. "They've really bought into what the coaches have been teaching them and they've been a big part of our success."
Defensively, the Eagles will be looking to slow down the multi-talented James Jenkins.
Hope Christian, ranked seventh (MaxPreps) in Class 3A and boasting an overall record of 6-4 (2-1, District 4-3A), has achieved much of their success this season thanks to Jenkins and his 1837 all-purpose yards and 29 touchdowns (21 rushing, 7 passing, 1 receiving).
"He's big, fast and physical," said Denetso of the Huskies playmaker. "We have our work cut out for us in trying to contain him for an entire game."
'Heart of the campus': Navajo Prep leaders, students and staff break ground on new hogan
In addition to Jenkins, Hope Christian will also likely utilize junior running back Brent Miller in the game plan.
Miller has scored 10 touchdowns and boasts a 7-yard per carry average this season.
Navajo Prep will turn to senior linebacker Daniel Yazzie for another big game. The team's leading tackler with 77 this season will be looking to minimize the Huskies scoring opportunities.
The winner of this matchup will move on to the Class 3A quarterfinals and a road trip to Raton to face the top seeded Tigers, who finished unbeaten this season with a record of 10-0.
For more information, including tournament brackets, scores and schedules of postseason games, visit the official tournament website.
Class 3A State Football Championships
First Round — (9) Navajo Prep at (8) Hope Christian, Friday, 7 p.m., Wilson Stadium, Albuquerque
Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.