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Farmington Scorpions, Bloomfield Bobcats set for semifinals in NM high school football playoffs


FARMINGTON — The chance to play for a state title in high school football is at stake this weekend when the Farmington Scorpions and Bloomfield Bobcats take part in state semifinal games.

The Scorpions visit Artesia, 30-time winners of the state football championships, while the Bobcats will host Ruidoso. Bloomfield is looking to get back to the state title game for the third time in the last four years.

Here's an inside look at to expect Saturday in the New Mexico Activities Association's 2021 State Football Championships.

The Daily Times will host a Game of the Week live blog from the Bloomfield-Ruidoso game, which takes place Saturday at 3 p.m., at www.daily-times.com.

Class 5A

Farmington (11-0) at Artesia (8-3), Saturday, 1 p.m.

The challenge of facing a legacy team such as Artesia is the last thing on the mind of Farmington head coach Jeff Dalton. 

On Saturday, when the Scorpions face off with Artesia for the right to play for the Class 5A state football title, their biggest opponent will be themselves.

"We've had a really good week leading up to the game," Dalton said. "It's not them that's on our minds. It's making sure we have our game plan intact and we stay out of our own way."

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The top-seeded Scorpions will bring their high-powered offense and top-ranked defense to the Bulldog Bowl, home of the Artesia Bulldogs and perhaps the most important high school football program in the state.    

Since 1957, Artesia has won a state title in football 30 times. That number is 12 greater than Lovington High School, which ranks second in the state with 18 state titles.

Head coach Jeremy Maupin, who took over the job following the resignation of Rex Henderson earlier this year, is well aware of the tradition created by Artesia football. He has a hand in it, leading the Bulldogs to a state title as a starting quarterback in 2004.

Maupin returned to the sidelines of Artesia after appearing in back-to-back state title games in 2018 and 2019 as head coach at Los Lunas High School. Prior to that, he worked as an assistant coach for four years at Artesia under legendary head coach Cooper Henderson, then with his son, Rex, in the 2016 season.

Cooper coached Maupin when he was a player for the Bulldogs, and led the team for 16 years, winning 238 games and 14 state championships. The 238 wins is the third-most for any high school football coach with one team in state history.

"It's definitely been humbling coming home, knowing the history and the legacy of the men before me," Maupin said. "It's a challenge where you just have to remember to get back to coaching football and getting the best out of these kids."

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The Bulldogs are led offensively by senior quarterback Nate Taylor, who brings a confidence to the field in his ability to make plays down the field. 

"He can sling it for sure. He makes the right reads and right calls," said Maupin of the left-handed quarterback. "Just a really smart football player. I'm really proud of the way he's played this season."

The Bulldogs are also gifted with talented senior running back Jake Barrera, who ran for more than 200 yards last week in their quarterfinal victory over Mayfield. Barrera broke the school record earlier this season for most rushing yards in a game when he ran for 324 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 69-58 win at home over Lovington.

"He's exceeded all our expectations this season," Maupin said. "He's a tough, smart, really good football player."

The task to keep those playmakers in check will be an important one for the visiting Scorpions. 

"It's easy to focus on their passing game, but they've got a very good running attack and I imagine we both have very similar philosophies on offense," Dalton said this week. "It'll be up to both sides to do what we do and limit the mistakes."  

Farmington has several playmakers of their own on the offensive side of the ball, led by senior quarterback Brandon Furbee (14 passing touchdowns and nine rushing TDs) as well as senior receivers Chance Carrillo and Patrick Shay and junior running back Jakeem Reed.   

Defensively, Farmington has surrendered only 51 points through 11 games this season. In the last five games, four of them against District 1-2/5A opponents and last week in their 28-6 win over Santa Teresa in the quarterfinals, the Scorpions have outscored their rivals by a combined margin of 226-15.

"The thing that sticks out for us is how athletic they are," Maupin said of the Farmington team. "They fly around on both sides of the ball. They're well coached and well disciplined." 

The Farmington game at Artesia kicks off Saturday at 1 p.m. and can be heard live on KENN AM-1390 and 92.1FM.

Should Farmington be victorious over Artesia, the Scorpions would play for the 5A state title either at home against Los Lunas or on the road against Goddard on Thanksgiving weekend.

What to watch for

Farmington's Kayden Gonzalez returned two punts for touchdowns in last weekend's quarterfinal victory over Santa Teresa. Gonzalez has been a special teams threat much of the season and could play a huge factor against Artesia on Saturday.

Class 4A

Ruidoso (7-5) at Bloomfield (10-1), Saturday, 3 p.m.

The Bloomfield football team has found a new cache of weapons as they prepare for Saturday's Class 4A semifinal showdown at home against the Ruidoso Warriors.

Due to lingering injuries to starting quarterback Ryan Sharpe and several key players in the second half of the season, Bloomfield found success on their bench, with big contributions from junior running back Aaron Johnson as well as backup quarterbacks Blake Spencer and Drew Perez.

"It's been amazing to see these kids step up all season long," said first year head coach Mike Kovacs. "No one got down on themselves and no stopped believing that we couldn't achieve our goals."

Sharpe, who's been battling a knee injury for several weeks, is expected to start for the Bobcats, who are seeking their third state championship game appearance in the last four years.

Standing in their way of that goal are the Ruidoso Warriors, who bring a three-game win streak into Bobcat Stadium, including playoff victories at home over Aztec and on the road over St. Pius.

Senior quarterback Griffin Hooker is the mainstay of the Ruidoso offense. He's thrown for 13 touchdowns this season but has also run for nearly 800 yards and 10 scores.

"He's such a big part of their offense," said Kovacs. "Our job is going to be to identify where he's at, keep their offense in the box."

Junior Cooper Pritchett and senior running back Braxton Hall have also excelled at a number of different positions on the field for Ruidoso. Pritchett can play quarterback as well as catch passes and also leads the Warriors defense with 99 tackles, while Hall has rushed for 1305 yards and scored 12 touchdowns on the season.

"Our offense is meant to keep teams off balance," according to head coach Kief Johnson. "They do a great job of blocking up front and whatever it takes to get a win."

Defensively, Ruidoso will also counter with sophomore Connor Holland and junior Kaden Sago. Holland has six interceptions this season while Sago leads the defense in sacks with five. 

Bloomfield will need strong efforts out of their offensive backfield, particularly from Diego Snell-Martinez, Andres Gordo and Jesse Seitzinger. The Bobcat running game has accounted for nearly 1,000 yards in their last six games.

The Bloomfield vs. Ruidoso game at Bobcat Stadium gets underway Saturday at 3 p.m. and will air live on KRWN 92.5FM. 

Bloomfield, should they win their semifinal game on Saturday at home over Ruidoso, will play for the Class 4A title next weekend either at home against Moriarty or on the road at Lovington. 

What to watch for 

During their current 5-game win streak, the Bobcats defense have limited opponents to 67 points. Last week in their 48-13 quarterfinal win against Valencia, the Bobcats shut out the Jaguars 21-0 in the second half. 

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.