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Taos taking on Bloomfield at home, Robertson in fourth straight title game

December 3, 2018

They were district rivals a year ago, but on Saturday afternoon they’ll be separated by six hours, each playing for a state championship that somehow seems to tie them even closer together.

The Taos football team will be at home to face Bloomfield in the Class 4A state finals while Las Vegas Robertson will be on the road to visit Dexter in the 3A title game. It’s the maiden voyage into the championship game for the Tigers and the eighth in the last 18 years for the Cardinals.

The first of those appearances came in 2001 when Art Abreu Jr. was a senior at Robertson and his father, Art Abreu Sr., was the head coach. All these years later, the pair is at Taos where the son is the head coach and the dad is on his staff.

“It’s a full circle thing,” Abreu Jr. said. “Now we need to take that last step, you know? My dad’s team never got the chance to do what we can do, so it’s definitely something we’ve both been talking about.”

Taos (11-1) has enjoyed its best year ever, rising to the top of the 4A rankings by the middle of the season. Its only stumble came in what is easily its worst effort of the year, a 27-0 loss in late October. The Tigers have allowed just 37 points in four games since then, setting up an unusual No. 3 vs. No. 5 matchup with a dominating win at No. 2 Portales last weekend.

It came the same day No. 5 Bloomfield knocked off St. Pius, sending the Bobcats to the finals for the first time in 28 years. They’ve gotten this far by playing a brand of defense unlike anyone else in the playoffs. They’ve given up just 18 points in three wins, including a pair of games played on the road the last two weeks.

As for Robertson (11-2), it’s more of the same old, same old. This is the Cardinals’ fourth straight appearance in the state championship game and their 54 wins in the last five years and are the most in the state.

What bothers head coach Leroy Gonzalez isn’t so much Dexter’s size as much as the call that may or may not come Saturday. He’s been on the organ transplant list for months, awaiting a new kidney. He spoke extensively about a recurring dream he’s had where, on the day of the championship game several hours from the Albuquerque hospital he needs to be in, he gets a call saying a suitable donor has been found.

“I’m getting ready for the game, or the game has already started, and the call comes to me or my wife,” he said in August.

The Cardinals lost the last three years in the championship game but have reinvented themselves this fall in getting there for a fourth straight time. They’ve gone back to a smash mouth style on offense, running just a handful of basic plays plays that feature running backs Antonio Padilla and Santiago Gonzales, and quarterback Brandon Lucero.

The defense, as usual, has been solid. The unit has had a bend-but-don’t-break approach that did just enough in close wins over St. Michael’s and top-seeded Hope Christian the last two weeks.

NOTES

Championship games for 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A will be held Saturday, including the big-school title game in which La Cueva and Cleveland battle in a game of 6A unbeatens. … Robertson is 3-5 in state championships, all since Abreu’s senior year in 2001. Last year’s 57-54 loss to Ruidoso was especially memorable, with over 1,000 yards of offense in a game that was decided on a last-minute Warriors touchdown before a packed house in Las Vegas, N.M.

Saturday

Class 4A football championship: Bloomfield (8-4) at Taos (11-1), 1 p.m.

Class 3A championship: Robertson (11-2) at Dexter (11-1), 2 p.m.

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