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Aztec, Bayfield led by young quarterbacks

Running games the focus in regional showdown
Bayfield’s Isaac Ross looks for an open receiver during the game against Aspen High School. Ross and the Wolverines worked past Aspen two weeks ago and have had extra time to prepare for Aztec.

Aztec’s air-raid offense is in hibernation this year. This time around, the Bayfield Wolverines are prepared for the run-heavy attack of the Tigers.

The Bayfield High School football team (1-1) earned a big 37-20 win at Aspen two weeks ago and had a bye to prepare for Aztec, which already has four games under its belt with a 3-1 record. Colorado Class 2A Bayfield will meet the New Mexico Class 4A Aztec Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium in Aztec.

“Aztec is certainly close, and it is kind of a rivalry,” BHS head coach Gary Heide said. “They’re at least close enough to get our attention. Any time you play one of those schools that are close to you proximity-wise, there’s a lot of bragging rights. And, if you can get a victory, it’s real nice to build on and be proud of.”

Both teams will look to young quarterbacks after years of talented upperclassmen leading the offense from behind center. For Aztec, it is freshman Marcquis Henry, who has completed 50.7% of his passes for 429 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions through four games.

“We’ve seen a great deal of consistency for a kid that young,” Aztec head coach Matt Steinfeldt said. “He doesn’t have a lot of passing yards, but that’s also by design. Our run-pass numbers are favoring the run game. That allows (Henry) to manage the games without having the pressure to go win them himself.”

For Bayfield, that QB is Isaac Ross, who is surrounded by scoring threats such as Cade Carlson, Crosby Edwards, Dawson French and Cale Schaefer.

“The last few years, I’ve had tall, experienced quarterbacks,” Heide said. “I have to adapt, offensively speaking, to a new and young quarterback, and I’ve got to really focus on his attributes and not try to ask him to do other things that will develop in time. Most important is for us to try to get first downs, make (Ross) feel successful along with the team offensively and play to his strengths.”

While Bayfield’s rushing attack has been spread out across multiple players, with Schaefer rushing for two scores at Aspen, Aztec’s is heavily focused on senior Alex Parra. He has 557 yards and 10 touchdowns through four games, and he has averaged 8.7 yards per carry. Heide said that makes Aztec different to prepare for than in years past, but he likes a physical matchup as much as Steinfeldt.

“We’ve obviously made some adjustments to our offense,” Steinfeldt said. “Most years, we’ve been a passing attack where we throw first, run second. We’ve altered that based on our personnel with a young quarterback and the experience of our running backs. Parra is doing an absolutely phenomenal job leading as a senior.”

Parra also leads Aztec’s defense with 38 total tackles, while junior Austin Jaime has 36 tackles with four for a loss. Bayfield must be prepared for the pass rush of Jaime and sophomore Chance Hoggard, who each have three sacks this season. Aztec also had six interceptions and has recovered nine fumbles this season, with Hunter Riddick having recovered three.

So far this season, Aztec has scored 40.25 points per game and allowed only 15.75. Last week’s 56-33 loss to Farmington was largely a product of being outmatched personnel-wise, with the Scorpions being able to substitute fresh players in and out all game.

The two teams haven’t met since 2017, when Bayfield earned a 48-21 home win en route to a state championship season. Bayfield also won in 2016 by two scores. But both teams have changed a lot since those meetings.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is both coaches feel Friday night’s game will come down to which team can be more physical and which pass rush can establish itself on third downs.

“Bayfield started a week later, had a bye week, and so they are kind of hard to make a read on,” Steinfeldt said. “But it’s Bayfield. We know how good they are year in and year out and how physical they play and how well coached they are. They’re going to be disciplined, hit hard and play the game the way it’s meant to be played.”

jlivingston@durangoherald.com

If you go

Who:

Bayfield at Aztec

What:

High school football

When:

7 p.m. Friday

Where:

Fred Cook Memorial Stadium, Aztec

Listen Live:

KPTE 92.9 FM

Twitter:

@BrendanPloen

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