On Monday across New Mexico, high school football teams begin their official workouts, with an eye toward season openers in about 3½ weeks.
Probably the most important change about the 2014 season is the way schools have been aligned and classified. It’s complicated, to say the least.
There is an episode in which Elaine is at the movie concession stand, and the clerk is trying to explain to her that there is no small drink anymore. Remember that one? That small is medium and medium is large and large is jumbo? That’s sort of what we have here this year.
The state has moved a few schools up and down the ladder, added a new class, eliminated another, and created, in essence, a cosmetic makeover of the landscape for high school athletics.
I will try to keep this as simple as possible – if that’s possible. (I give myself 50/50 odds of achieving total reader comprehension.)
Let’s begin with this: There is no Class B. It’s been erased. Not that that relates to football, since football had no Class B, but I felt it was worth mentioning.
Bare bones, everybody got bumped up a number. Class B is now Class 1A, and so on.
Football has eight classes, including 8-man and 6-man. No, wait, it’s just seven: Class 6A-2A, plus the two non-11 man varieties. See the full list of schools/districts on page D7.
Santa Fe and Deming (kicking and screaming?) are joining Class 6A, which is the old 5A.
Last year, Santa Fe’s district rivals were Bernalillo, Española Valley, Capital and Los Alamos. This year, Santa Fe’s district rivals are Cleveland, Rio Rancho, Volcano Vista and Cibola.
I think I speak for everyone when I say to the Demons: Good luck, boys. This is like dropping New Mexico State into the SEC.
Deming goes in with the Mayfield and Las Cruces league, replacing Alamogordo, which is rejoining one-time district rivals Clovis, Carlsbad and Hobbs.
Still with me?
(Class) 6 packs
Santa Fe was dealt the harshest hand, at least for football. The Demons are ill-equipped to deal with the rigors of this class and this new district. It’s not likely to be pretty, at least not right away.
The other big loser is Highland. The Hornets were plucked from District 5, where they had reasonable hope of being a playoff team, and repositioned into District 2 with La Cueva, Sandia, Eldorado and Manzano. This revives some glorious rivalries from the 1970s and 1980s, which is good. But let’s hope Highland regains some of its competitiveness, and soon, because the Hornets’ defense is coming off a horrible season.
Valley, whose enrollment was commensurate with the likes of Goddard and Artesia, asked permission to play up into 6A, a decision that pleases everyone. Piedra Vista was the real beneficiary here, as the Panthers were able to play down in 5A to create the numerical balance the New Mexico Activities Association so dearly wanted.
There are 24 schools in 6A, and there are 24 in 5A.
As for that new Class 5A, well, it looks pretty much like the old 4A, with two notable exceptions.
Both Lovington and Albuquerque Academy, who were 3A last fall, are going to be part of the 5A family. If the oil boom in southeastern New Mexico is truly luring loads of new families and students, then the Wildcats should be able to manage the transition. Plus, Lovington is one of New Mexico’s great football towns.
For Academy, this will be more difficult. The Chargers were a playoff-caliber program under the old alignment, but there will be concerns about how Academy will survive this move, especially since the Chargers don’t usually attract a whole bunch of football players.
One benefit, though, is that Academy and St. Pius will once again become district rivals in football, as they are in other sports already.
Del Norte has been lifted from the St. Pius/Moriarty district and put into District 2-5A. The Knights replace Santa Fe.
Unlike Academy, Hope Christian avoided a battlefield promotion – the NMAA’s application of the new private-school multiplier (1.3) didn’t increase Hope’s enrollment enough to cause a shift – and the Huskies will continue to compete against schools it had been playing already. But they have a new district. Or districts, if you prefer. Not only must they deal with perennial power St. Michael’s, but also Ruidoso, Portales and New Mexico Military Institute. That constitutes District 4/5 in Class 4A.
Bits and pieces
Foothill and Menaul are both 8-man programs. One of the quirks of this alignment and classification puzzle is that there are more than twice as many 8-man teams (18) as there are Class 2A teams (seven; this is the old Class 1A).
It’s all going to take a bit of getting used to. For me, for you, for the schools.
Los Lunas, Belen and Valencia, for example, are in a freshly configured district that will force that trio to travel more extensively than before. That’s another wrinkle.
So is the near-total elimination of three-team districts.
Alamogordo makes it a quartet with Clovis, Hobbs and Carlsbad; Lovington makes it a four-school table with Artesia, Goddard and Roswell. There is only one three-team league, and that by geographic necessity: District 2-2A, with Fort Sumner, Hagerman and Jal.
If you’ve made it this far, hang tight. It’s almost over.
As for the actual football, the Journal, for the third consecutive August, is going to offer full previews on each of the 24 programs in the metro area, not including Foothill, a school we can’t talk about because we’re forbidden from using players’ names.
We’ll start our daily previews Tuesday morning.
Ours is the best coverage – by a country mile – you’re going to get anywhere of prep football in the metro area. The 24-previews-in-23 days flurry will end Wednesday, Aug. 27, which is Opening Night. We’ll debut our choice for metro No. 1 on that day.
As usual, I have plenty of other goodies in store along the way until West Mesa and Highland take center stage Aug. 27, which is the start of another seven-games-in-four-days debut weekend at Community Stadium.
But this year, no hints on coming attractions. For that, you’ll have to keep reading.