Los Luna’s quarterback Paul Cieremans runs to a touchdown over Cibola in playoff action last Saturday at Community Stadium. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)


No. 1 Cleveland (8-2) plays host to No. 9 Los Lunas (7-4) on Friday night, with an excellent QB matchup in Evan Wysong of the Storm versus Paul Cieremans of the Tigers.


Time to turn up the heat.

The second weekend of New Mexico’s high school football playoffs should offer an abundance of stellar matchups as all the top seeds enter the fray following a bye week. There are 20 games scattered across Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Class 6A

All four quarterfinal games are Friday night, and the best game anywhere in New Mexico could be the one at Watson Memorial Stadium in Hobbs as the fourth-seeded Eagles (9-1) welcome No. 5 Volcano Vista (9-2).

This is a tremendous pairing of dual-threat senior quarterbacks: Volcano Vista’s Elliot Paskett-Bell (2,714 passing yards/31 touchdowns and 825 rush yards/11 TDs) and Hobbs’ Omar Argott (2,273/29 TDs and 691/10), though both teams are loaded with playmakers.

“They pop on film,” Hawks coach Chad Wallin said. “They’re big, very athletic quarterback, very good receivers (led by Kaden Trevino), very aggressive defense. When you watch them on film, you get an understanding of why they’re 9-1.”

Hobbs is the only non-district champ among the top four seeds. Eagles coach Ken Stevens and several assistants watched Volcano Vista in person last week as the Hawks routed Atrisco Heritage in the first round.

“They are quick, they’ve got some good team speed,” Stevens said. “Their quarterback, he does a great job of extending plays. He’s a headache for every defense that has faced him this year.”

Rio Rancho (7-4) will have a new (sort of) starting QB on Friday as the sixth-seeded Rams visit the Field of Dreams to take on No. 3 Centennial (8-1). Noah Nelson, the opening night starter, will be back after his early-season replacement, sophomore J.J. Arellano, was injured in Rio Rancho’s quarterfinal victory over Alamogordo.

“Our biggest thing for us offensively, is we have to finish drives,” Rams first-year head coach Nate Pino said. “Our defense gives us an opportunity to win every week, and they’ve got to do their job.”

Class 5A

Half of the eight quarterfinalists are from District 4, and three of the four are home.

Mayfield, the 6 seed, is the exception. The Trojans (5-6), who rallied to beat Santa Teresa in the first round, make the long trip to Farmington to race No. 3 Piedra Vista (9-1). The Panthers’ only loss came at Roswell.

Both the second-seeded Coyotes and No. 4 Goddard are at the Wool Bowl.

The Rockets (6-4) won 28-13 at Deming in Week 3 of the regular season, and now it is the Wildcats (7-4) on the road in the 5 vs. 4 matchup. That is the only Friday quarterfinal.

Roswell (8-2) faces upstart Gadsden, the lone lower-seeded team (at No. 10) to advance past the first round. The Panthers (5-6) last weekend won their first playoff game in 56 years.

Valley, the 8 seed, makes an extremely rare appearance at Bulldog Bowl when the Vikings (8-3) play explosive, top-seeded Artesia (8-2).

Class 4A

No. 5 Portales (9-2) visits No. 4 Lovington (4-6) in the quarterfinals; the rivals met two weeks ago, with the Wildcats winning 20-14 on the road and holding off a late Rams offensive surge at the end.

“Both teams are equally matched,” Portales coach Jaime Ramirez said. “We had our chances. We got to the red zone three or four times and didn’t come away with points. We have to play better offensively.”

That matchup is Friday night. The other three quarterfinals are Saturday. The biggest contrast in styles will be in Bloomfield as the second-seeded Bobcats (9-1) entertain No. 7 Moriarty (8-3). It is Bloomfield QB Ryan Sharpe and his receiving weapons against Moriarty’s tricky but effective run offense.

“Two totally different styles,” Moriarty coach Gabe Romero said. “But I think if we come out and play the way we did (last week against Kirtland Central, a 53-2 victory), that’s probably the best we’ve looked all season. If we come out and play that way, we match up pretty good.”

No. 1 Silver (9-1) is home to No. 8 Aztec (5-6). No. 6 Albuquerque Academy (7-4) and No. 3 Taos (9-1) are playing at New Mexico Highlands in Las Vegas. The Chargers won 7-6 in the first round over Bernalillo, but were held to less than 100 yards of offense.

Class 3A

The most intriguing quarterfinal occurs in Las Vegas, where No. 3 Robertson (8-2), the defending 3A champion, plays host to district rival. No. 6 Raton (8-3). The teams met on Oct. 21 at Robertson; the Cardinals won 12-7 on a pair of kickoff returns for scores. Both teams finished with under 100 yards of offense that night.

“Our special teams are gonna have to be a lot better,” said Raton coach Tory Giacomo, whose team also surrendered a kick return for a score last week against Hatch Valley in the first round. “That’s gotta improve. And we have to take care of the ball.”

Cayden Walton, the Tigers’ stellar senior running back, is at 2,770 yards with 36 touchdowns. But Robertson held him to a season-low 72 yards in the first meeting, the only game all season Walton didn’t rush for at least 200 yards.

No. 1 Socorro closed out a 10-0 regular season two weeks ago, winning 29-0 against Cobre in Bayard for the Warriors’ seventh shutout of the season. The Indians (5-6), seeded No. 9, visit Socorro in the quarterfinals.

No. 5 Thoreau (9-2) won in overtime last week against No. 12 Hope Christian, and the Hawks play at No. 5 St. Michael’s (9-1) in the quarters. West Las Vegas (6-5), a 7 seed, visits No. 2 Ruidoso (9-1).

Class 2A

The top two seeds, No. 1 Jal and No. 2 Texico, both are traveling in the semifinals. And three of the final four – Jal, Texico and Eunice – hail from the same league.

The Panthers (11-0) visit nemesis Eunice, the 4 seed that is seeking a fifth straight state championship, which doesn’t include the pandemic-erased fall season of 2020. The Cardinals (7-3) were worked over 50-0 in Jal a month ago.


The first two championship games of the season will be held in Lordsburg and Roswell, and both are showdowns of unbeatens.

The top-seeded Mavericks dropped down to 8-man this season and won all 10 of their games by at least 14 points. The Mavs will be home Saturday to No. 2 seed Fort Sumner/House, which is also 10-0 and has, largely, been as dominant as Lordsburg.

In Roswell, defending 6-man champ Gateway Christian (10-0) is home to No. 2 seed Mountainair (11-0) on Friday night. Gateway’s defense has been spectacular, surrendering only 51 total points in 10 games. The Mustangs score 62 a game.