Fort Sumner coach Matt Moyer is embracing an unusual role for his team — the underdog.
The Foxes are seeking their 10th Class 1A state title since 1995, but will have to knock off top-seeded and defending state champion Hagerman on Saturday to do it.
Hagerman (10-1), which features a speedy triumvirate of quarterback Isaac Bejerano, running back Ryan Gomez and receiver Michael Garcia, handed second-seeded Fort Sumner (10-1) its only loss this season, 26-18, in the opening week of district play.
“It’s a different role for us,” Moyer said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. The kids were super nervous (the first game). Now they get the opportunity to stay relaxed and know, win or lose, they’ve done a great job this year.”
In the regular-season meeting, the Bobcats took an 18-6 lead into the fourth quarter but needed a fourth-and-goal interception on the game’s final play to preserve the win.
“The game was so close the last time, we know we’re in for a battle,” fourth-year Hagerman coach Randy Montoya said. “We’ve been getting ready to go since Saturday.”
The Foxes will have to slow Bejerano and the boys to pull off the upset. Bejerano has both rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards, while Gomez has more than 1,200 yards rushing and Gomez has 33 catches for 532 yards.
“We’ve got to stop the running game, whether it’s power, outside or whatever,” Moyer said.
Montoya said the traditionally run-oriented Foxes stung the Bobcats in the first game by running out of a spread offense, and were particularly successful with play-action passes.
“We really have to make sure we read our keys,” Montoya said. “We have to make sure we don’t bite too hard (on play-action).”
Moyer said Fort Sumner will likely operate out of a spread offense most of the time Saturday.
“We’re going to spread it out a little bit and make them cover the whole field,” Moyer said. “They’re bigger than us and real physical.”
History is on Fort Sumner’s side.
In 2001, Fort Sumner upset defending state champion Hagerman — which was riding a 24-game win streak — in the Class 1A state title game.
No. 1 Hagerman at No. 2 Fort Sumner
What: Class 1A state championship game
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Records: Hagerman 10-1, Fort Sumner 10-1
Last meeting: 2010, Hagerman beat Fort Sumner 26-18 in district play.
Last week: Hagerman beat Mesilla Valley 53-2. Fort Sumner beat Escalante 54-16.
Of note: Fort Sumner has a 21-19 edge in a series that dates back to 1974, including 4-2 in the playoffs. ... Hagerman’s loss was a 53-20 setback to defending Class 2A champion Tularosa. The Bobcats have played and beaten two of the other three 2A semifinalists, Texico (26-14) and Santa Rosa (28-27). ... Fort Sumner has a pair of 1,000-yard producers in Kolter West (1,351 passing yards, 14 TDs) and Skylar McMath (1,002 rushing yards, 13 TDs).
Go figure: Fort Sumner has fumbled 34 times, but lost only five.
— Compiled by Rick White