Trailing 14-0 to begin the final 12 minutes of the regular season, Farmington’s defense made a stand that will go down in Scorpion history, not to mention Aztec Tiger history.
Piedra Vista junior quarterback Isaiah Valdez threw an interception just 16 seconds into the fourth quarter to No. 10 Farmington’s Shane Goeckner. One play later, Farmington running back Austin Foutz ran 37 yards for the Scorpions’ first touchdown of the night.
Farmington’s defense came out even more fired up on the next PV possession, forcing a Panther punt. A couple of plays later it was senior running back Essiel Carrasco’s turn to scamper 70 yards for the game-tying touchdown.
The Scorps defense forced a Valdez fumble and a three-and-out on the Panthers’ next two possessions, giving the Scorpion offense a chance to win the game with the ball on their own 32-yard line and 2:27 to work.
Farmington (7-3 overall, 2-1 District 1-4A) didn’t falter as junior quarterback Jacob Lucas hit wide receiver Chris Jiron on a 20-yard touchdown pass with just 31.7 seconds left in the game to give Farmington a 21-14 home win against the No. 4-ranked Panthers in a game PV needed to win the District 1-4A championship.
“I have a hard time rating things because we play things one year at a time, but that was definitely the best game we played all year,” said Farmington head coach Gary Bradley when asked where the win ranked in all-time Farmington greats. “Our defense? Man, it has been incredible all year. Coach Dalton, our defensive coordinator, he has worked tirelessly to put these guys in great situations. Our players are coachable. They carried out what the coaches put in front of them and played well all year. We put it in the players’ hands tonight, we really did.”
Not only did the victory likely guarantee Farmington a home playoff game in the first round, it took the district title away from PV and awarded it to a very grateful Aztec team.
Aztec, Farmington and PV all finished 2-1 in District 1-4A, but the Tigers (5-4 overall) are awarded their sixth-consecutive district crown after coming away with a point-differential tiebreaker.
“It is really special considering what we went through this year,” said Aztec senior captain Adam Lucero. “The thing about football is, you have to play one game at a time. God does everything for a reason, and we truly believe he has a plan for us. We just kept playing our schedule, and now we have the district title we were hoping for.”
Not only did all of Hutchison Stadium explode when Lucas hit Jiron with the go-ahead touchdown pass, a bus driving the Aztec players from Fred Cook Memorial Stadium back to the high school after Aztec’s 63-0 mercy-rule win against Kirtland Central also erupted with emotion.
“Right before Lucas made that pass, I looked at the guys on the bus telling them this was it,” Lucero said. “I made the guys turn their hats backward like a rally cap. It got dead-silent on the bus as we listened on the radio. Then we heard ‘Touchdown Farmington,’ and the whole bus went crazy.
“You have to hand it to Farmington. This is how a district schedule should be played, and it should come down to literally the last play.”
Lucero ended his regular-season career in fine fashion against Kirtland Cental on Friday, throwing for 216 yards and five touchdowns on 10-14 passing. He also intercepted two passes on defense and returned them for touchdowns.
Brad Hardin had four catches for 106 yards and three touchdowns in the win for Aztec, who will be seeded the highest of any District 1-4A team in state when selections are announced Sunday.
“We kind of thought that might be our last home game of our lives if PV would have won,” Lucero said of the Kirtland Central game. “We are pumped to definitely get a home game now for all of the seniors who have been through so much with Andrew Pope’s death this year. We all want to give the fans at least one more great home game, because they have been so great to us all of these years.”
While Aztec anxiously awaits to see which team will visit the jungle next week, Piedra Vista is left wondering what happened while Farmington rolls into the state playoffs with a massive wave of momentum.
Farmington out gained Piedra Vista by 100 yards of total offense — 356-256 in the defensive scrap.
The Scorps totaled 188 yards of offense in the second half.
After Foutz fumbled in the second quarter, Farmington won the turnover battle big as the Scorps forced three Valdez interceptions in the game and a Valdez fumble.
“We got after it for sure,” Foutz said. “This was the best we have all done all season and it showed big time. To come through in the clutch is big, and it feels good to come through in the end.”
Lucas’ game-winning pass to Jiron came immediately following a huge 15-yard personal foul penalty against PV linebacker Wyatt Hardy, who got caught with a late hit right in front of a referee.
With the ball on the 20 and PV stacking the box with 10 men, Lucas asked Bradley during a timeout if he could run a pass play.
“Lucas called the play he wanted. It was in his hands,” Bradley said. “I trusted him and that is what we went with, and he got it done.”
Lucas was grateful for his opportunity.
“I love the trust we have in each other on this team. I am glad Bradley trusted me in the moment. He is a great coach and we wouldn’t be here without him,” Lucas said.
In what was a brilliantly coached game, Bradley said he was most proud of the maturity his players showed.
“They rose up to a challenge and showed that maturity,” he said. “When things are going against you in a season, especially turnovers, they haunt you. We challenged the guys a bit and they responded to it. The guys weren’t going to beat themselves again tonight.”
Bradley wasn’t concerned about what message the selection committee might take away from the Scorps’ big win, and he especially doesn’t care about his team silencing PV.
“We aren’t saying ‘Not so fast,’ to anybody,” he said. “We are just taking care of ourselves. That is really the way we go. We don’t get caught up in the hype, and we didn’t. We just try to do what we do best. We aren’t sending messages to anybody.”
Piedra Vista (8-2 overall) still finished with the best overall record in the district, but may be the lone team facing a road contest in the first round of the playoffs next week after the loss.
“Turnovers killed us,” said PV wide receiver Bryson Martinez. “We didn’t move the chains when we needed to in the fourth quarter, and we just didn’t get it done. Farmington outplayed us. I give a lot of credit to Farmington’s defense because they were as tough as it gets. It wasn’t our night I guess.”
PV missed out on big plays as wide-open receivers dropped passes and Valdez struggled with accuracy, going just 9-21 through the air with the three interceptions.
But PV still believes it can play for a state title, but the team is keeping the goals in focus one week at a time after the humbling defeat.
“Our goal right now is to be practicing on Thanksgiving,” Martinez said. “We can still do that.”
The way all three of the top District 1-4A teams have played the last three weeks, it is practical to believe all three will be practicing on Turkey Day this year.