We’ll start with some good news and bad news.
The good news is, the Albuquerque metro area, across four different classifications, has never been more rich with prep football talent than right now.
The bad news is, this increases the degree of difficulty for yours truly in identifying our 50 top football players from the 2018 season. Do we have the best 50? No way to know for sure. Give this assignment to 20 people, and I will show you 20 different lists.
Do we have 50 great players? Unquestionably. So let’s jump right in as the Journal today reveals its All-Metro teams.
The list reflects the kind of uneventful season we had, one in which there was a preponderance of blowout games and the top teams (La Cueva, Cleveland, Volcano Vista and Manzano) gained clear separation from everyone else. Those four teams combined for 31 of my 50 selections, led by Cleveland’s 10.
Volcano Vista’s Jake Deatherage is an extremely worthy first-team choice at quarterback. Deatherage ran the Hawks’ offense brilliantly, accounting for 33 touchdowns (25 throwing, eight rushing). He was Volcano Vista’s leading rusher.
Cleveland’s Dorian Lewis and Manzano’s Xavier Ivey-Saud (an incredibly reliable workhorse for the Monarchs over the last three seasons) get the nod at running back in a tight field.
I will observe here that the receiver position had the most quality depth of any – by far – on the board. The continued evolution of the high school offense is creating a deep pool of candidates.
Even with the six receivers I have selected, three to each team, there are still several outstanding players who aren’t mentioned anywhere, and that was easily the most agonizing thing for me during the last few days as I tried to shave the list down.
This year’s first-team receivers are the biggest group we’ve ever featured. It includes 6-foot-5 sophomore Tre Watson of Cleveland, 6-4 Jack Blankenship of Manzano and 6-4 Connor O’Toole of La Cueva.
O’Toole may be, in his own way, the most interesting first-team choice at any position, and an example of why just looking sheerly at statistics can be misleading:
On their own, his numbers (catches, yards, touchdowns) are somewhat smaller than most of the others – even including one player who didn’t make the final cut, his La Cueva teammate Prince Robertson. But, it was O’Toole’s importance to this offense, his contributing so many clutch catches – many in traffic, where his frame does him so much justice – that separated, and elevated, him.
We’ve got a sturdy, beefy, athletic five in front of Deatherage, with tackles Andre Romero of Cleveland and D.J. McDowell from La Cueva, guards Brandon Largo of Manzano and Connor Burton of Cleveland, and Monarchs veteran center Jed Edgar.
Blaine Grant, who was such an invaluable piece of that Volcano Vista offense, is my first-team athlete. La Cueva’s Dominic Camacho gets the nod over Hope Christian’s Vince Quezada – the Huskies’ do-it-all Swiss army knife – as our placekicker, although each swung his leg to marvelous effect.
• Moving to the defense, La Cueva has representatives at all three levels: end Kendrick Milford, linebacker Fred Mady III and safety Blaine Smith.
St. Pius’ relentless Donovahn Wyatt, who registered 18 sacks, is also along the defensive front, with Eldorado’s Keith Alvarado and giant Christian Carreathers of Albuquerque High.
Our linebackers are, as always, among the best athletes on the list. Dion Hunter of Cleveland, Austin Walker of Manzano and Los Lunas’ Diego Sanchez join Mady there. Manzano sophomore Teasi Richardson and Cleveland’s Chris Thomas, a shutdown corner, round out the secondary.
Jacob Werner, another crucial offensive piece for Volcano Vista, makes the cut at first-team punter.
I congratulate all the athletes on this year’s teams, and for the seniors among them, I wish them well in the next chapter of their lives.
See you in 2019.