By Dave Wagner
The Mountainair Mustangs started the season in a hole after losses to Floyd and Melrose, considered the top two teams this year in six-man football.
Since then, though, first-year coach Robert Zamora’s squad has run off eight wins in a row. Mountainair gets another crack at Floyd (9-0), this time at home, in a 1 p.m. semifinal playoff game on Saturday.
If they win, the Mustangs could face Melrose, which plays Saturday at Animas, for the championship next week.
“We’ve been playing well,” said coach Robert Zamora, a 1991 Mountainair grad. “We’ve come together well. There have been a lot of positive changes since we played Floyd or Melrose.”
One of them is junior running back Porter Riley, who moved from Mountainair to Albuquerque over the summer and briefly attended La Cueva High School before his family came back to Mountainair.
“He was there last year,” Floyd coach Jeff Gillespie said. “He’s a Mountainair kid, but he really helps them.”
While Floyd rallied from an early 14-point deficit to rout Gateway Christian 63-14 with 55 second-half points last week, the Mustangs were putting a 50-0 whipping on Magdalena, a team they beat by just nine points during the regular season.
“Once we played (Magdalena), we figured out what we needed to work on,” Zamora said. “We’re going to try to do the same thing against Floyd.”
The Broncos, beaten by the eventual champion in the semifinal round each of the past two years, notched a season-opening 33-12 win over Mountainair at home — one of their closest games this year.
“They’ve pretty much blown everybody out,” Zamora said of the Broncos. “In the first game of the season, both teams were still trying to figure things out.”
While Gillespie isn’t expecting a walkover game, he’s confident the Broncos will be all right. Last week’s early scare against Gateway could turn out to be a positive.
“I don’t think the point spread will be any bigger (this week) than it was the first time,” he said. “I think they’ve gotten better, but I think we’re getting better too.
“It ought to be a good game, but if we play the way we’re capable we’ll be right in the thick of things.”
Gillespie said he’s not that worried about overconfidence by the Broncos, who plan to leave at 7:30 a.m. Saturday on the three-hour bus trip.
“I don’t think this group of kids has that,” he said. “It’s just a different mix of kids. We just go out and play and have fun.”
Floyd at Mountainair
1 p.m. Saturday
Records: Floyd 9-0, Mountainair 8-2.
Coaches: Floyd, Jeff Gillespie, 3rd year; Mountainair, Robert Zamora, 1st year.
Last week: In quarterfinal games, Floyd overcame an early 14-0 deficit to beat Gateway Christian 63-14 at Floyd, while Mountainair blanked Magdalena 50-0 at home.
Mountainair players to watch: Porter Riley, Jr. RB, 6-0, 193; Mathew Chavez, Fr. QB-LB, 5-11, 190; Azan Chavez, Jr. C-DE, 5-10, 195; Josh Archuleta, Jr. WR-DE, 5-11, 165.
Other semifinal: Melrose (9-1) at Animas (6-1), 1 p.m.