As the 2019 New Mexico high school football season approaches, fans are getting more and more excited for the action this upcoming season. In the first article of a three-part series, ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team will break down District 1 of Class 6A.
Atrisco Heritage Jaguars (Last Season: 1-9 Overall, 0-5 in District 1):
Head Coach: Patrick Johnson (Eighth season)
Key Non-District Games: Mayfield, Carlsbad, Eldorado
Offensive Players to Watch: QB Julio Borroel, WR Jordan Montano, WR Anthony Vallejos
Defensive Players to Watch: LB Leo Gallegos, CB Isaiah Manzanares, LB Chris Rios
Injuries and a tough schedule proved to be a difficult task for the Atrisco Heritage Jaguars last season, and now, with a healthy roster ready to take the field, the Jaguars are ready to be more competitive for the upcoming season. Julio Borroel, who took a majority of the snaps last season at quarterback for Atrisco Heritage, gets the nod once again. Showing promise in the passing game last season, Borroel could help the Jaguars in an area they haven’t focused on in quite some time, and that is, throwing the ball. And thankfully for him, he’ll have receivers Jordan Montano and Anthony Vallejos ready to back him up. With these three having experience with each other, Atrisco Heritage might have a stronger passing game on their hands for the upcoming season. But as fans know, the Jaguars utilize their triple-option offense greatly, and will still have a running game. Defensively, as coach Patrick Johnson told James Yodice of the Albuquerque Journal, will likely sharpen up, which would be beneficial, as the Jaguars allowed an average of 45.8 points per game to their opponents last season. They’ll look to turn to a linebacking core of senior Leo Gallegos and junior Chris Rios, who both made impacts defensively for Atrisco Heritage last season. Now that the Jaguars are injury-free, they will have to focus on yet another schedule that will be challenging, which includes Mayfield, Eldorado, Cleveland, and Rio Rancho.
Cibola Cougars (Last Season: 6-6 Overall, 2-3 in District 1):
Head Coach: Rod Williams (Seventh season)
Key Non-District Games: Onate, La Cueva, Los Lunas
Offensive Players to Watch: QB Stephen Barela, WR Mikey Garcia, RB Slayd Campos
Defensive Players to Watch: LB Quentin Thomas, DL Andrew Mirabal, LB Klayton Whitezell
The Cibola Cougars made a splash in last year’s playoffs, after taking down the fifth-seeded Mayfield Trojans in the first-round play-in games, and even though they’ll want to put themselves in a better position for better seeding, the Cougars could potentially surprise fans once again this season despite having younger players taking the field this year. With the graduation of Marcus Steele, junior Stephen Barela now gets his shot to lead the Cibola offense for the upcoming season. Barela will have some big shoes to fill, as he will succeed a quarterback in Steele who threw for 2,716 yards last season. Nonetheless, he’ll have the help of two other players who will be filling in some big roles, which include senior Michael Garcia taking the main wide receiver role, while junior Slayd Campos assumes running back duties for this upcoming season. Defensively, their third-leading tackler from last season, Andrew Mirabal, will return, picking up 48 total tackles, which is likely to expand for this upcoming season. Also worth watching out for Cibola this upcoming season will be linebackers, Quentin Thomas, and Klayton Whitezell, who combined for 31 total tackles last season. The Cougars have a good mix of young and veteran talent entering this upcoming season, but they will another strong schedule ahead of them that will put them to the test.
Cleveland Storm (Last Season: 12-1 Overall, 5-0 in District 1 [District Champions]):
Head Coach: Heath Ridenour (Eighth season)
Key Non-District Games: Franklin (TX), Artesia, Mayfield
Offensive Players to Watch: RB Dorian Lewis, QB Jeff Davison, WR Tre Watson
Defensive Players to Watch: S Trey Ortega, LB Colten Madison, CB Luke Wysong
The revenge tour begins this season for the Cleveland Storm after dropping their undefeated season at the hands of the eventual state champion La Cueva Bears last season. With highly-regarded running back standout, Dorian Lewis, returning from his season-ending injury, the Storm’s offense will be stronger than how they ended last season after Lewis went out of the lineup. Lewis has already been receiving attention from scouts across the nation, and it is evident that will continue to happen this season. Jeff Davison will also return for his second season leading the helm of the Storm offense at quarterback, after throwing for around 2,000 yards last season. Also expanding on their role for the upcoming season will be star young wide receiver, Tre Watson, the two-sport athlete who has impressed the likes of New Mexico high school fans. Last season, Watson caught for around 675 yards. The Storm defense, who allowed an average of just 19.2 points per game to their opponents last season, also return a majority of their core, which once again make them contenders for the blue trophy. It’s safe to say that Cleveland will once again be one of the early favorites to return to the state championship, and with the majority of their core returning, the chances are high.
Rio Rancho Rams (Last Season: 4-7 Overall, 3-2 in District 1):
Head Coach: David Howes (11th season)
Key Non-District Games: Centennial, Pine Creek (CO), La Cueva
Offensive Players to Watch: QB Isaiah Chavez, WR Tyrese Watson, RB Zach Vigil
Defensive Players to Watch: S Jasper Pennington, S Tommy Lujan, LB Tyler Woisin
Despite having a rough patch in non-district play last season, the Rio Rancho Rams were able to rebound from that with a successful district run that placed them as the nine seed in last year’s state playoffs. It’s safe to say that even though they suffered a losing season, the Rams still have a lot of strength to look forward to for the upcoming season. Isaiah Chavez will man the quarterback duties for the second year after taking control last season. Speaking of last season, Chavez would finish with 2,220 yards and 24 touchdowns, which is a strong performance he will look to replicate for this upcoming season. Two of the leading receivers from last season in Tyrese Watson and Zach Vigil, who combined for 485 yards, will return as well, with Vigil potentially getting in the mix when he runs the ball this season as well. Defensively, the Rams backfield will return two of their starters from last season in safeties, Jasper Pennington and Tommy Lujan. Both Pennington and Lujan made strides for the Rams, with Pennington also serving a role as a kick returner last season. Also featured in the backfield is linebacker Tyler Woisin, a 5’8” senior who is ready to make a splash. With experience returning to the field for this upcoming season, the Rams will more than likely get more than four wins on the season, improving on last season’s record.
Volcano Vista Hawks (Last Season: 9-3 Overall, 4-1 in District 1):
Head Coach: Chad Wallin (12th season)
Key Non-District Games: La Cueva, Onate, Manzano
Offensive Players to Watch: QB Diego Pavia, WR Ivan Rodriguez, RB Jimmy Gallegos
Defensive Players to Watch: S Brandon Padilla, LB Darren Avila, LB Jacob Gellhausen
As if there couldn’t be any more contenders in this year’s pool of 6A teams, Volcano Vista will once again be throwing their hat in the mix in Chad Wallin’s 12th season as Hawks head coach. The Hawks acquired a key piece in St. Pius transfer Diego Pavia last season, but Pavia was ruled ineligible to play by the NMAA and was unable to step into play and get snaps. Now that he is eligible, Pavia will take the field and lead the Volcano Vista offense for his senior season. Pavia was a standout at St. Pius his sophomore season two seasons ago, throwing for 2,272 yards and 25 touchdowns. He will look to bring that same performance to the field for this season, especially in a district that will be highly competitive. At running back will be Jimmy Gallegos, the 5’10” senior who rushed for 340 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, contributing to almost 40% of the rushing touchdowns. Also in the spotlight will be wide receiver Ivan Rodriguez, who picked up 561 yards and seven touchdowns last season from the throws of Jake Deatherage. Defensively, the Hawks return two of their top three leading tacklers from last season, which include linebacker, Jimmy Gellhausen, who led Volcano Vista with 87 total tackles, while second-leading tackler, safety Brandon Padilla, also returns after 82 total tackles last season. Also taking in the new spotlight is Darren Avila, another linebacker ready to make some plays. Volcano Vista’s schedule will once again be one that will have tests in it, including their opening week matchup with La Cueva. Nonetheless, we can expect the Hawks to be ready to give teams a lot of battles this season.
West Mesa Mustangs (Last Season: 2-8 Overall, 1-4 in District 1):
Head Coach: Anthony Ansotigue (Second season)
Key Non-District Games: Eldorado, Centennial, Mayfield
Offensive Players to Watch: QB Daniel Ayala, RB Ja’Calvin Newsom, WR Brandon Kenton
Defensive Players to Watch: S Mark Gutierrez, NG Vincent Delgado, LB Joseph Thompson
The climb to a playoff berth continues for the West Mesa Mustangs in Anthony Ansotigue’s second season as Mustangs head coach, as he will look to build around a young core of players that can gain experience right away on the varsity level. To reinforce the youth of this team, 5’10” quarterback Daniel Ayala will take over the offense as a sophomore. After getting some high school experience at the C-Team level, Ayala will now be thrown into the spotlight to lead the West Mesa offense. Also included in the players to watch out for in this upcoming season will be running back Ja’Calvin Newsom, a 5’11” junior, and Brandon Kenton, a 5’9” senior, one of the lone seniors on the offensive unit for the Mustangs. With this young talent, West Mesa can use it to their advantage and build a newly-revitalized program. Defensively, the Mustangs will look to a lot of juniors, which include safety Mark Gutierrez, linebacker Joseph Thompson, and on the front line, nose guard Vincent Delgado, all juniors. Once again, the Mustangs will not have any game come easy to them. With a non-district schedule that includes Centennial and Mayfield, along with teams like Cleveland and Volcano Vista in their district, West Mesa will have an uphill climb, but the Mustangs appear to be ready for the test.