LA saddled with No. 12 seed, will play Los Lunas on Friday

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By Mike Cote

While it appeared in the final weeks of the regular season the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team made a case why it should not be the No. 12 seed in the state Class 4A tournament, the seeding and selection committee didn’t agree.
Los Alamos picked up the 12th and final seed for the Class 4A playoffs, which get going this weekend with four games. Los Alamos will face fifth-seeded Los Lunas Friday night on the road.
The Hilltoppers were relegated to the bottom of the 4A bracket, the same way the Bernalillo Spartans were a year earlier. While based on early season play, a No. 12 seed wasn’t unjustifiable for the Hilltoppers, the team pulled things together at the end of the season, considerably better than did the Spartans a year ago.
Los Alamos starting offensive and defensive lineman John Gibson said that a No. 12 seeding might seem disrespectful to his squad, but it was more than fine with him.
“For me, I love that,” Gibson said. “I love that we’re the 12 seed. Everyone tends to overlook the lower seeds, but it’s the playoffs. Anything can happen...it’s how you show up in the playoffs games.”
Los Alamos (6-4) had been shut out of the playoffs in 2009 and 2010 when the NMAA seeding and selection committee elected to take just one team from District 2, in both cases, that was district champ Bernalillo.
It didn’t help Los Alamos’ case that one of the 4A teams it lost to this season, Belen, failed to make the playoffs. Belen topped Los Alamos 35-8 Sept. 23, a game which most where expecting to be considerably more one-sided than it was.
Los Alamos’ rise this season started a week earlier when it won for the first time in 2011, a 21-20 victory over Bloomfield. The following week, the Hilltoppers were able to keep their momentum going with the better-than-expected showing against Belen – on the other side of that coin, some have pointed to that game as the beginning of the Eagles’ tumble from what appeared to be a very promising season.
Belen (5-4) was ultimately left out of the 4A playoffs. Losing to a team that didn’t qualify for the playoffs generally doesn’t sit well with the seeding committee.
Following those two games, the Hilltoppers reeled off five straight victories, including running the table against District 2 competition.
Not surprisingly, the Goddard Rockets, who put together a dominant 2011 season, were tabbed as the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. Aztec was the No. 2 seed, followed by Valencia and Artesia.
The top four seeds get automatic bids into next week’s state quarterfinals.
Artesia’s Bulldogs are the defending 4A state champs and have won three titles since 2006.
Friday night’s game at Los Lunas is set for 7 p.m. The winner between the Hilltoppers and Tigers will face Artesia — should Los Alamos win Friday, it would travel to Artesia next week as the one and only playoff meeting between the two schools was played at Los Alamos.
“I’m stoked,” Gibson said. “This is so awesome for me to be a part of. At the high school level, this is the Super Bowl.”