Hilltopper hopes still alive?

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By Mike Cote

It’s still very much a long shot, to be sure, but there is a glimmer of hope for the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team to make the Class 4A playoffs.
By Saturday morning, the Hilltoppers’ postseason fate will be sealed one way or the other. But a berth in the playoffs, which seemed like a pipe dream two weeks ago is, if not likely, at least plausible.
Los Alamos (5-4) shouldn’t have any trouble with Capital (1-7), which picked up its lone victory two weeks ago against Española Valley, and may even have to pull back to get the game to the second half.
But the most important game for Los Alamos Friday night is not its own game — if the Hilltoppers lose to the Jaguars, no force on Earth could get them into the playoffs — but rather the Santa Fe-Bernalillo game Friday at Ivan Head Stadium.
Santa Fe will clinch District 2-4A if it wins Friday. If it doesn’t, that reopens the door for Los Alamos. Keep in mind, neither Los Alamos nor Santa Fe has a prayer of getting an at-large bid, so the only team that will advance will be the district champ.
On paper, that doesn’t seem to be much to hang one’s hat on. The Spartans (1-7) have struggled mightily. The Demons (3-5) have struggled, well, less mightily. The Demons have a potent offense. The Spartans do not.
Perhaps most importantly: the Hilltoppers beat up the Spartans. The Demons beat up the Hilltoppers. All things equal, it would logically follow that the Demons would beat up the Spartans.
But heading in, Santa Fe has some issues.
My very good buddy, Vince Kong of the Journal North, says that Santa Fe has two guys banged up right now. For Santa Fe, it’s the wrong two guys: Anthony Abeyta and Jordan Booth-Homer, who combined for more than 500 all-purpose yards between them against Los Alamos.
Abeyta sat out last week. Booth-Homer’s back was tweaked.
Then, there was the game itself. Santa Fe, coming off the win over Los Alamos — arguably its biggest game since the Reagan administration — was crushed at Ivan Head Stadium by Moriarty.
The Pintos, who aren’t tabbed as any sort of title threat this year, trampled the Demons 62-8.
That will put a little hitch in any team’s giddyup, but particularly one where successful seasons are few and far between.
That’s still probably not enough for Bernalillo to pull off the upset, because, as seen in the Oct. 12 game against Los Alamos, the Spartans have a lack of playmakers and some other troubling issues — some of them attitudinal. Bernalillo simply may not have what it takes to upset Santa Fe, Abeyta/Booth-Homer or no Abeyta/Booth-Homer.
And Los Alamos’ likely reward for a playoff berth? A first round contest against a team that has none of the issues the District 2-4A teams seem to be plagued with this year.
Another district title and a playoff berth would be a good accomplishment for the Hilltoppers this year.
But that’s still at least four long quarters off.