ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Trent Spencer’s long and winding coaching career has brought him to the metro area to try to resuscitate a program that’s been fading in recent seasons.
Bernalillo stumbled to a 3-7 record last year, missing the state playoffs. A lack of depth and talent contributed to the Spartans’ struggles, and those are two things Spencer hopes to turn around.
“The big thing I have to say about Bernalillo is numbers,” Spencer said. “We’re constantly working on getting numbers out here and having some fun and trying to do some things to open some eyes. Let’s be realistic, we’re (really) a 3A school with about 27 guys.”
Bernalillo, though, now plays in District 2-5A. Getting the depth the Spartans need to compete going forward is crucial.
“We’ll have some more, hopefully,” Spencer said. “I’m going to recruit a lot during school. I’m reaching out to the pueblos. We’re a school of about 700, 300 or 400 of them from out in the pueblos and I’m not getting any kids from that. Basically we’re drawing from half the school. I’m reaching out to them, letting them know they’re welcome, we want them to come play, we need them.”
Spencer said he has gotten a lot of support from Bernalillo’s superintendent, school board, principal and athletic director, as well as the parents.
“This is the first place I’ve been where parents are bringing in a full-fledged meal every night after practice, different parents feeding the kids after practice,” said Spencer, who has also coached at Vaughn, Wingate and Laguna Acoma. “That’s real encouraging for me.”
Most of Spencer’s assistant coaches are new as well.
“Alfredo Ibarra, he’s our offensive coordinator, he comes from California,” Spencer said. “Brings a wealth of experience from California football to here. He brings up-tempo. Looks real good now for us. We have a lot of speed in the receivers.”
Running backs coach Prince Robertson and defensive coordinator Mike Dalton are also hard at work molding the team.
“We could really have a pretty strong team,” Spencer said. “We’re looking pretty good right now, just a lack of depth is the problem. Our top players are really, really good, they have a lot of football knowledge.”
The Spartans’ senior class is led by quarterback Ralph Olguin, running back/linebacker Luis Daniel Molinar and tight end/linebacker Johnny Unale.
The up-tempo offense has Olguin excited.
“We’re going to go with the spread, run some option,” Olguin said. “Try to utilize the speed we have on the team and also utilize my arm strength.”
Unale agreed that the offense has potential.
“I’m liking our fast-paced offense,” Unale said. “We’re going to try to confuse the defense, tire them out.”
Molinar said being physical on both sides of the ball will be just as big of a key as the Spartans’ speed.
“We have a pretty good defensive front, some pretty good seniors and upperclassmen up there,” Molinar said. “Our offensive line is still young, so we need to keep working there.”
The Bernalillo players are all optimistic that things are about to turn around.
“We’ve all been working hard all summer, expecting to do big things,” Olguin said. “We’re going to do some pretty good things, get back to the district championship. It’s been pretty rough these past couple years.”
The Spartans open their season at home against Taos on Aug. 29.