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Opening round of New Mexico high school football playoffs get underway this weekend

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FARMINGTON − While Piedra Vista and Bloomfield High School's football teams get a week off to open their postseason runs for a state tile, four local and area teams open their playoff schedules this weekend.

Here's a glance at what to expect Friday and Saturday night in the first round of New Mexico Activities Association's state football postseason tournament.

Class 3A − Newcomb at West Las Vegas, Friday 6 p.m.

The West Las Vegas High School football team was no match for District 2-3A rivals St. Michael's and Robertson, but their 5-5 overall schedule, which included romping wins over Santa Fe Indian School and Thoreau was good enough for a seven-seed in the state tournament.

The Dons, coached by Adrian Gonzalez, are led by sophomore quarterback CJ Perea, who has 14 passing touchdowns as well as eight rushing scores this season. His favorite targets through the air have been seniors Jaydin Vigil and Ethan Montono, who have accounted for 75 catches and 10 touchdowns.

Defensively, junior Juan Montano has been a mainstay for the West Las Vegas defense this season, racking up 75 tackles and a pair of sacks. Senior Enrique Gonzalez has three interceptions this season to lead the team.

West Las Vegas finished third in the district this season behind both third-seeded Robertson and fourth-seeded St. Michael's. The classification's top seed Socorro was one of only two high school football teams in the state to finish this season unbeaten, as both the Warriors and 2A top seed Jal ended the season with perfect records.

Newcomb, winners of their last three games and unbeaten in District 1-3A this season, supplanted Navajo Prep as the top team in the district after dismantling the Eagles in the regular season finale last weekend.

The winner of this game will move on to face second-seeded Ruidoso, who were the state runner ups in Class 4A last season after losing the championship game 41-21 to Robertson.

Class 4A − Valencia at Aztec, Friday, 6 p.m.

Head coach Hank Strauss is confident his team will be ready Friday night to begin a new chapter for Aztec High School football when the Tigers open the first round at home against Valencia.

After getting bounced from the state tournament last year in the first round by Ruidoso, the Tigers hired Strauss, a former standout player for Aztec with both high school and college coaching experience, to get the program back on course for a state championship.

The season ended on a high note for the Tigers, who rolled 56-14 at home over district rival Kirtland Central. They won two of their three District 1-4A games by a combined margin of 108-14.

"We overcame a lot this season to get to this point, so now we can get ready for the next challenge," Strauss said. "After the disappointment of last season, and knowing what we're capable of, we're excited to give the hometown fans a playoff game in their stadium."

Valencia finished with an overall record of 4-6, but finished second in District 3-5/4A behind top-seeded Silver. The Jaguars came into their final game of the season needing a win over Silver to win the district title, but came up short at home, losing to the Fighting Colts 13-0.

Valencia, coached by Wes Shank, will feature a trio of running backs, including seniors Rey Garcia and Matthew Chavez, who have combined for nine touchdowns and nearly 650 rushing yards. Senior Adriano Ortiz and junior Daniel Villegas have combined for more than 1000 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns.

The winner of this first-round matchup will move on to face Silver next weekend.

Class 4A − Kirtland Central at Moriarty, Friday, 6 p.m.

First year head coach Travis Clary was brought onto Kirtland Central after a tumultuous end to last season, which came to a halt after a stinging playoff loss to Silver. Clary was hired following the resignation of Jeff Schaum, who oversaw the Broncos football team for one season.

Clary, a longtime assistant at both Kirtland Central and Farmington before opting to join Kirtland Central, saw the Broncos navigate a challenging schedule, which included an error-filled homecoming loss last month to Pagosa Springs. The Broncos finished the season with a record of 4-5 (1-2 District 1-4A) and the 10-seed in the playoffs.

Moriarty, with a record of 7-3 on the season, finished one game behind Taos in District 2-4A. The Pintos had won six of their seven most recent games before dropping the season finale 28-7 at Taos, who earned the three-seed in the tournament.

Coached by Gabriel Romero, Moriarty features dual-threat quarterback Amare Gonzales, who has thrown for six touchdowns and run for 10 scores. The offense also features senior running back Matthew Romero, as well as junior Santiago Chavez and senior Michael Magoffe. The Pintos running game has amassed more than 2500 combined rushing yards and 39 touchdowns.

In addition to his offensive abilities, Gonzales is also the team's leading tackler, with 79 tackles including 11 for loss of yardage. He's also recorded five sacks on the season.

The winner of this game will visit second-seeded Bloomfield in the second round.

Class 6A − Carlsbad at Farmington, Saturday, noon

The difference between a seven-seed and a 10-seed in the Class 6A state tournament came down to breaking several ties according to the NMAA.

The Farmington Scorpions, who lost last weekend on the road at La Cueva, came out slightly ahead of Cibola, Los Lunas and Carlsbad in the tiebreaking criteria, giving them an opportunity to play at home in their first postseason game in the classification.

Farmington was elevated from Class 5A following the conclusion of last season because of increased enrollment numbers. The jump from 5A to 6A was a challenge for Dalton and his staff, but the team rallied in the second half of the season to win four of their last six games, including district 2-5/6A victories over West Mesa, Eldorado and Sandia.

"The spot could have gone in any order as far as the seeding is concerned," said Farmington coach Jeff Dalton. "Our guys have fought hard to get here and we're looking forward to 6A playoff football."

Coached by Oliver Soukup, Carlsbad features several important playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

Senior running back Eli Asay has rushed for more than 1200 yards this season while junior running back Ulysses Mendoza has scored eight times and rushed for more than 600 yards. Senior quarterback Dane Naylor is a threat inside and outside the pocket, with more than 1000 combined rushing and passing yards.

The Cavemen finished third (behind Hobbs and Centennial) in District 3/4-6A. Both Hobbs and Centennial are on a bye this week in the tournament while Carlsbad (5-5 overall, 3-2 District) are joined by 11th-seeded Alamogordo in first round action.

The winner of Saturday's game will face second-seeded La Cueva in the quarterfinals.