Mountainair and Melrose played a classic 8-man football game on Oct. 8, with the difference a 2-point conversion in the second overtime.
Now they meet again, this time with a little more on the line.
The top-ranked Mustangs (10-0), who won the earlier meeting 38-36, visit No. 2 Melrose again in Saturday’s 2 p.m. 8-man state championship game.
“It should be a good game,” said Mountainair coach Robert Zamora, who led the Mustangs to the 2007 title in 8-man. “They’ve got a tough team, and we have a tough team.
“When you get in a state championship game, you want the No. 1 and No. 2 teams matching up.”
The Buffaloes, seeking a third consecutive title, endured their share of injuries throughout the season but are “as healthy as we’re going to get,” coach Dickie Roybal said.
Melrose (8-3) lost junior guard-defensive tackle Josh Broome for the season to a broken arm in the first Mountainair game. Other than that, the rest of the team is healthy, Roybal said.
“The homefield advantage is huge, just playing in front of our crowd,” he said. “To be honest, with everybody back, we’re a lot better than we were then.”
The Mustangs’ big guns are juniors Santana Zamora and sophomore Cimarron Zamora, who are cousins and nephews of the coach. Each scored two touchdowns in the earlier meeting, including the game-winner for Cimarron Zamora — followed by Santana Zamora’s 2-point run — in the second overtime.
“It’s going to be a hard game,” Melrose senior Hayden Moore, who will split time between fullback and guard on offense and tackle and end on defense. “We’ll try to execute everything and tackle better than last time.”
Moore, who returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown in the first meeting, is one of three seniors on the Buffs’ roster but the only one who has been in the program since seventh grade.
He said he enjoys the challenge of playing different positions.
“There’s a lot of plays you’ve got to learn,” Moore said. “I enjoy playing every spot. It’s really whatever works for the team.”
Moore and Roybal said the Buffs have to do a better job of tackling in this game.
“We did a lot of arm-tackling (in the first meeting), and they’re too strong for that,” Roybal said. “We also have to stay on our blocks longer.
“I’m excited to see what’s going to happen. We just have to be able to execute.”