Preps: James Yodice recounts the highlights of 2016-17 - Albuquerque Journal

Preps: James Yodice recounts the highlights of 2016-17

Top, St. Pius’ Drew Ortiz led the Sartans to a state championship; left, Sandia Prep’s Madie Trainor scored 59 points in a game in January; bottom center, Sandia’s Cara Liggins helped lead a No. 7 seed to a hoops title in March; right, Atrisco Heritage’s Jaelynn Vialpando smacked four home runs in an April game. (Journal photo illustration)

Before I get to our All-Metro baseball and softball teams and Athletes of the Year – all on tap for next weekend – it’s time to reflect on these past nine months together.

Away we go.

SEED ME, SEYMOUR: Let’s hear it for the boys from 12th-seeded Volcano Vista. A sports-writing colleague in March said to me that I had the best job in the state, getting to cover 6A boys basketball. He’s right. The Sandia girls, in most seasons, would have won the blue ribbon for lowest-seeded 2017 champ as a 7.

But not this year.

Volcano Vista was one of four first-time state basketball champions. The others were the boys from Maxwell and the girls from Goddard and Tohatchi.

RECORD BREAKERS AND CHASERS: West Las Vegas senior guard D.J. Bustos broke New Mexico’s career scoring record in boys basketball – twice, actually, when one of his games was retroactively ruled a forfeit. But he’s now the standard, and the first new record holder in this category in 40 years.

Sandia Prep’s Madie Trainor poured in 59 points in a game Jan. 5 against Rehoboth. This was the second-highest scoring game for any New Mexico girl. Ever. Trainor had eight 3s, all in the first half.

Atrisco Heritage sophomore Jaelynn Vialpando hit a state-record four home runs – one off the national record – in an April victory over Albuquerque High. She had hit only four homers the entire season before that memorable afternoon.

DRIVE FOR FIVE: The New Mexico Activities Association in February voted to return the state to five classifications starting in August 2018. Capital wrestler Jose Tapia, later that same week, won his fifth state individual wrestling title, becoming just the seventh member of that exclusive club. He later signed with Boise State, only to find out weeks later that the school would disband the program.

DRIVE FOR 38: Meanwhile, Albuquerque Academy swimming coach Dave Barney isn’t slowing down. The legend won his 37th and 38th state championships with the Chargers, who swept this year’s state competition. Jim Murphy in March won his 15th title as coach of the Hope Christian boys basketball team. Hang in there, Jim, it’ll only take 23 more titles to catch Dave.

GAME OF THE YEAR: Naturally, I didn’t see them all, or even close to them all. But for my money, it was a scintillating triple-overtime boys basketball game in January between Cleveland and Eldorado, a game the Storm won 111-109 on a buzzer-beater. A tremendous game in every way.

DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL: Both West Las Vegas’ boys and Santa Fe Indian School’s girls forfeited basketball games for taping the game of a future opponent. I guess simple note-taking is too much to ask?

Bits and pieces

THEATER OF THE ABSURD: A story that gained national traction was the Goddard-Artesia football game Oct. 28 at the Wool Bowl in Roswell. Artesia was leading Goddard 35-34, with the ball, with 30 seconds left.

The Rockets made several attempts to jump the snap and cause the ball to be fumbled on the center-quarterback exchange. They were penalized several times.

But eventually, Goddard did – according to game officials – force a fumble and get a turnover.

And the Rockets eventually won the game 37-35, creating an ole-fashioned ruckus. It was later determined that the defensive tackle swiped at the ball before the snap.

This was such a bizarre scenario that the NMAA went to the national high school federation in January and requested a rule change, which was voted on and confirmed. The amended rule says a defensive player can’t make a move for the ball until the center has completed the snap.

NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Rio Rancho and St. Pius both won football championships on the same day. Remarkably, the Albuquerque/RR metro area had never produced multiple state champs in the same season.

St. Pius’ victory was the more unlikely of the two, as the Sartans denied Artesia a 30th blue trophy. For Rio Rancho, it was a second undefeated season in three years.

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON’T GET SARCASM (LOOKING AT YOU, SAL GONZALES): Imagine the gall of the Santa Fe Prep boys to interrupt an all-Albuquerque parade in state soccer with a 1-0 victory over Bosque School in the Class 1A-4A state final. Let’s ban those chippy Blue Griffins from future state tournaments, I say. (Sal, by the way, is Rio Rancho’s cross-country/boys track coach who never seems to find the twisted humor in my tweets.)

690 WINS OUT THE DOOR: The all-time winningest football coach in state history, Clovis’ Eric Roanhaus, resigned in late December after 39 seasons as the Wildcats’ head man. He won 343 games and 10 state championships. Two other men with multiple state titles, St. Pius’ San Juan Mendoza and Louie Baisa of Lordsburg, who combined for 347 career wins, also hung up their whistles.

YOU WILL BE MISSED: Two longtime and popular coaches in Albuquerque Public Schools, Eldorado golf coach Paul Rost (Feb. 3) and Sandia baseball coach John Gunther (March 15), died from cancer this year.

DAMM AUTOKORRECT: Look, my phone beguiles me just as much as it does many of you when it pertains to texts and tweets. (For example, it resists my persistent efforts to use inappropriate language in text messages, although I usually prevail in the end.)

Two of my favorite lighthearted examples from this school year were:

• “Lady Dogs 31, Santa Claus 3 at the half” from Artesia’s account. From what I heard, Mrs. Claus was ejected early for a flagrant elbow in this game, and several elves missed the game to take their ACTs.

• From Los Lunas’ football account, just prior to a showdown with Artesia: “High steaks.” Medium well, with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli, if you please.

YOU GO, LADIES: At least two girls – Jocelyn Fernandez of St. Michael’s (Oct. 13 versus Pojoaque; just the second girl to ever score a touchdown at the varsity football level, it is believed), and Rebekah Ney of La Cueva, a kicker – scored football points last fall.

Fernandez was prominent in one of the great images of the entire year when she was crowned homecoming queen while decked out in her Horsemen uniform.

A LONG TIME COMING: Three metro-area teams broke extended droughts. The Hope Christian boys soccer team won district for the first time in 25 years. The Albuquerque High baseball team won district for the first time in 34 years. And the West Mesa girls basketball team won district for the first time in 39 years.

I KNOW WHAT SAMUEL L. JACKSON WOULD SAY, IF THIS WERE AN R-RATED MOVIE SET ON AN AIRPLANE: There were the requisite number of weather-related delays throughout the school year, but the cause of an outright postponement between the volleyball teams from Rio Rancho and Cleveland led to this explanation:


A pair of bull snakes apparently infiltrated a 12,000-volt unit in the solar field next to Cleveland High. This caused a serious outage, and the school did not have enough voltage to run the scoreboard, lights and PA system in the main gym.

The match was postponed until the following Monday.

As for the snakes?

“Instant suicide,” Cleveland athletic director Larry Chavez said.

GOING NATIONAL: Albuquerque Academy forward Charles Touche played in the High School All-American Soccer Game in North Carolina in December, and had two assists for the West squad. St. Pius senior forward Tatiana Limon was chosen to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America High School All-American team.

THIS AND THAT: St. Pius and Sandia Prep captured volleyball championships in November. …

Academy swept both 5A cross-country and soccer. …

The Elida girls in November won their seventh straight volleyball title and in March won their seventh straight basketball title. And in May, Silver High softball won its seventh straight blue trophy. …

Amid a terrific season for the Eagles, Belen boys basketball coach Patrick Mondragon was arrested for alleged criminal sexual contact with a minor. …

Rio Rancho baseball coach Ron Murphy won the 500th game of his career and his 400th game at Rio Rancho. …

Ron Geyer, after over 500 career wins and six state titles total at Alamogordo and St. Michael’s, retired as Horsemen boys basketball coach in March. …

Cleveland and Belen repeated as state wrestling champs, Cibola as a girls soccer champion. …

Albuquerque welcomed a new basketball school, Cottonwood Classical Prep, for the 2016-17 season. …

For the first time, New Mexico recognized small-school state swimming champions; the inaugural titles went to Hope Christian’s girls and Santa Fe Prep’s boys. …

Lordsburg’s boys completed a rare championship sweep of the Big 3: football, basketball, baseball.

So much more I wanted to touch on today. But alas, my time has run out.

Have a great summer, gang.

See you in August.

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