by Mike Magers
Aztec is located in San Juan County in the northwest part of the state. The community received its name from early Catholic priests, Fathers Francisco Atanosio Dominguez and Francisco Velaz de Escalante, seeking a shorter route from Santa Fe to the missions of California.
In the summer of 1776, they located the Indian ruins nearby and erroneously identified them as having been built by the Aztec Indians. Later scholarship correctly associated the ruins with the Anasazi tribe, though the name of the town remained as it was originally named. It is thought that the ruins themselves date to the 11th to 13th centuries and that the Anasazi were ancestors of the Pueblo tribes that inhabit much of northwest New Mexico today. The town itself was officially established about 100 years later in the late 1800s and was largely an agricultural based economy.
Aztec’s cumulative record in football since 1950 has been 419-253-13 with a number of those winning seasons having been earned under former head coach Brad Hirsch who went 85-16 in his 8 seasons with the Tigers finishing his tenure in 2011. In that remarkable season, Aztec went 13-0, its only perfect season in history, and won a State Championship in a nip and tuck thriller with Goddard 28-27. This would be only the Tigers’ second State Championship, ending a long drought since 1953 despite having reached the big game 12 times previously without success.
Aztec’s current coach is Matthew Steinfeldt who came to the Tigers after serving as offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at Colorado’s Ft. Lewis College in Durango. Coach Steinfeldt is from football country, growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University graduating in 2000 after being a three year starter on its football team. Steinfeldt went on to earn a Master’s degree from Moorehead State in 2004. His other coaching stops included Texas A&M Commerce and Anderson University.