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Bobcats roll over Taos, Panthers slip past Roswell to advance to championship weekend

BLOOMFIELD − Quarterback Ryan Sharpe threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score as the Bloomfield High School football team rolled over Taos by a final score of 45-13 in a Class 4A semifinal game in the New Mexico High School football championship tournament.

Meantime, the Piedra Vista High School football team advanced to the championship round of the state tournament for only the second time in school history after a hard-fought 13-7 win Saturday at the Wool Bowl over Roswell.

Here's a look at how the Bobcats and Panthers reached the state finals.

BLOOMFIELD 45, Taos 13

The Bobcats move on to the Class 4A championship game and a home game Saturday against top-seeded Silver, in what will be a rematch of a regular season game played earlier this season. That game was won by the Fighting Colts by a score of 45-6.

Bloomfield (11-1), which came into the tournament as the two-seed, wasted little time establishing their dominance over a Taos squad that fell behind early and never was able to manage a comeback.

"We wanted to set the tone early and we were fortunate enough to find some big plays and I think that really helped pave the way," said Bloomfield coach Mike Kovacs.

Sharpe set the tone early, finding open space on the left side of the offensive line on a designed keeper route, splitting defenders on his way for an 11-yard score on the Bobcats opening drive. The Bobcats extended their lead to 13-0 late in the opening frame when Andres Gordo scored one of four rushing touchdowns on the afternoon.

"I can't say enough for what these guys were able to do," Kovacs said of his offensive playmakers. "We got great protection from the offensive line and we were to exploit those things."

Sharpe threw the first of his touchdown passes early through the second quarter when he found Drew Perez breaking free down the far sideline for a 64-yard score and a 19-0 lead. That touchdown was set up when Perez picked off Taos quarterback Dameon Ely, who found himself under pressure for most of the contest.

Sharpe connected with Aaron Johnson from 14 yards out and achieved a 25-0 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the half.

The lone first half highlight for Taos was a late second quarter touchdown from Ely to Favian Cordova, which trimmed the Bobcats lead to 25-7 heading into the locker room.

"Our defense went into this week knowing that (Ely) was the real heartbeat of that team and we really wanted to effect that," Kovacs said.

Jesse Seitzinger scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the second half, while Sharpe connected with Andrew Bair for a touchdown in the third quarter as Bloomfield continued to exploit their advantage on the Tigers defense.

"We have such a good group of weapons, and it was great to see everyone get involved," Kovacs said.

Taos would get on the board once more in the game as Ely ran for a fourth quarter score that did little to slow down the Bobcats momentum.

The loss to Bloomfield snapped a 10-game win streak for the Tigers, who finish their season with a record of 10-2.

The rematch on Saturday against Silver, a team that advanced to the championship game with a 23-7 win at home over Lovington, gives the Bobcats an opportunity to avenge their only loss of the season. The Fighting Colts will make the long road trip to Bloomfield for the finals, giving the Bobcats a homefield edge.

"Now it's the final game of the season and you just have to go out there and win it," Kovacs said. "We saw some things when we looked back at film of that game and now we have to work on those things. Sleeping in our own beds this week will definitely help."

Saturday's championship game will be the sixth meeting between Bloomfield and Silver. The Fighting Colts have a 3-2 advantage in that series.

Bloomfield has a record of 1-7 in championship games, their only win coming against Jal in 1966. Silver is 1-9 in title games, with their only win coming in 2005 over Aztec.

PIEDRA VISTA 13, Roswell 7

For the first time in 22 years, the Piedra Vista High School football team will play for a state title, thanks to a dramatic 13-7 win Saturday afternoon at the Wool Bowl over the Roswell Coyotes.

Rushing touchdowns by quarterback Logan Howell and running back Jacob Ramsted, combined with a stifling defense that created five turnovers on the afternoon, vaulted the Panthers into a Class 5A title contest this Saturday at Hutchison Stadium against top-seeded Artesia, who rolled over on Deming by a final score of 49-12.

The Panthers (11-1), who suffered their only loss this season in a 32-14 defeat last month at the Wool Bowl against Roswell, reversed that decision by creating defensive pressure on the Coyotes offense and using their running game to control the tempo of the game.

"We made some adjustments on the edges and that gave our defense opportunities to make plays," said Piedra Vista head coach Jared Howell. "We got some great contributions both up front and down the field to get those takeaways."

Quarterback Manny Fuentes came into the semifinal match having thrown only four interceptions all season, but was picked off four times on Saturday. The final interception, grabbed by linebacker Andreas Romero midway through the fourth quarter, ended what might have been the Coyotes best scoring drive of the final frame.

Logan Howell's 20-yard scoring run in the first quarter gave the Panthers a short-lived lead before Roswell answered back on the following drive. Fuentes found Miguel Garcia for a game-tying 21-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter. Neither team could get much going offensively in the second quarter and both teams went into the locker room with a 7-7 tie.

"Their offense is so good around the edges and we found some ways to contain their quarterback," Jared Howell said. "Defensively, we played one of our best games of the season."

Piedra Vista took advantage of another interception off Fuentes, this time by Jacob Schreuder midway through the third quarter, when Ramsted scored from seven yards out to give the Panthers a 13-7 lead.

"(Schreuder) had such a big game for us," said Jared Howell. "So many guys stepped up for us when we needed them on defense."

Piedra Vista will play host to top-seeded Artesia for the Class 5A championship, thanks to a New Mexico Activities Association postseason rule that rotates venues based on when participating teams last met in either a semifinal or championship game. When the Bulldogs faced Artesia in the 2015 Class 5A semifinals, the game was played in Artesia.

"What a great thing this is for San Juan County to have two teams playing for championships and have both them at home," Howell said. "Artesia is a special team and they're going to give us everything they have."

Piedra Vista's only other appearance in a state championship game took place in 2000, when the Panthers lost to Roswell by a final score of 35-31.

The Panthers have faced the Bulldogs three times, all of those games taking place in the postseason and all of them taking place in Artesia. Artesia has won all three prior meetings.

The Bulldogs have won 30 state championships, the most of any school in the United States in nearly a century.