Football: Toppers thumped by 3rd-ranked Aztec

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By Mike Cote

Friday night, the Aztec Tigers showed why they’re the third-ranked team in the state of New Mexico and no one had a better view than the Los Alamos Hilltoppers.
The Hilltopper football team struggled to slow down one of the most prolific offenses in the state and never got much going when it had the ball Friday at Sullivan Field. The Tigers scored five times in the first half and closed out the game with 7:48 remaining, grabbing an impressive 52-0 victory over the Hilltoppers.
Los Alamos, which was already a little thin in the ranks heading into Friday’s game, lost fullback Kyle Stephens in the first half with a shoulder injury and defensive back and special teams star Mike Sanchez early in the second half.
But even at full strength, Los Alamos would’ve been hard-pressed to slow down Aztec (2-0), which features Brycson King, one of the best quarterbacks in the state, who also has one of the best offensive lines in the state in front of him.
Los Alamos head coach Garett Williams, who took the first loss of his coaching career, had nothing but praise for the Tigers.
“We knew coming in they were one of the top teams,” Williams said. “We knew what size they had, what speed they had, but our kids didn’t back down. They played hard. They played well.”
King, who in addition to having five-plus seconds to throw the ball when he dropped back most of the night, also had his choice of two very good receivers to throw to, Tylin Hirsch and Corey Atencio. King found both wide outs on several occasions, with the Hilltopper secondary, minus senior Daniel Christensen, charged with the unenviable task of keeping its eyes on both.
Los Alamos’ defensive backs had plenty going against them Friday. Along with the lack of pressure on King, Aztec was often able to get four or more receivers into its pass patterns, allowing King to check down to his tertiary options, something King has done very well during his career.
King went 13-for-16 in the first half Friday, throwing for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as well as running for a third touchdown.
The Hilltoppers did have a few good moments in the game, but not enough to hang with the Tigers.
Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, their best defensive series of the game was for naught. With the Hilltoppers down 20-0 and time winding down in the second quarter, the defense made its first stop of the game, forcing a 29-yard field goal attempt that went wide right.
But on the ensuing Los Alamos offensive series, quarterback Kory Balog tried to float a pass over the head of crashing linebacker Josh Folk, who plucked the ball out of the air and ran it back for a 16-yard touchdown.
Los Alamos became one of the state’s first victims of the newly-instituted mercy rule, which states a game ends when one team goes up by 50 or more points.
The Hilltopper offense, which had a good showing a week earlier against Pojoaque, rolling to a 40-0 victory, garnered just 29 yards total offense, most of that coming on a Stephens 24-yard run going through the left side of the Aztec offense.
While Los Alamos did have some success running to its right, the Tigers got good penetration through the middle and the left side of the Los Alamos offensive line most of the night.
Los Alamos will try to regroup for its first road trip of the season, traveling to the Four Corners to take on the No. 6-ranked Farmington Scorpions.
“Defensively, we thought we had a good game plan for them, but by the time you get down, we’re pretty thin right now,” Williams said. “All you want is to try to go hard.”