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Braves are building commitment to football

Santa Fe Indian School’s Chance Platero, left, and Devry Tosa, center, practice with their teammates at the school on Thursday. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — As Carl Vigil enters his fourth season as Santa Fe Indian School head football coach, he knows the Braves are still not showing the results on the win-loss ledger.

But he also knows those results can be deceiving.

The program is healthy and growing as more underclassmen are becoming interested in playing, he said. And returning players at the boarding school are putting more emphasis on their individual off-season training program, even when they are unable to attend summer workouts.

And the team even was able to compete in some 7-on-7 competitions this summer, which will be a big benefit, Vigil said.

Whether that adds up to more victories is not certain, of course. District 2-3A is generally one of the toughest in the class, but Robertson, St. Michael’s and West Las Vegas all suffered significant graduation losses.

“That’s the hope that I try to preach,” Vigil said. “As soon as we get the marquee win and get it going, there is no limit to what they can do. The kids who show up love the game of football. And they have such passion for it. All we have to do is start believing in ourselves, really.”

Vigil is buoyed by knowing he’s not only got a veteran quarterback coming back in senior Shaun Riley (5 feet, 8inches, 140 pounds), but also there is a battle for the position with junior Devry Vigil (5-9, 150).

“It is turning out to be a real open competition,” the coach said.

Both saw time last year at quarterback, with Riley getting the bulk of the minutes, throwing for 625 yards and seven touchdowns.

Senior Francisco Pino, a newcomer who joined the team in mid-season last year, is the top returning back, with 293 yards on 42 carries for a 7.0 average. Fellow senior fullback Izell Latoma (5-8, 185), had to pass a summer class to regain eligibility, Vigil said. Latoma gained 422 yards in 2018 and would help give the team a smash-mouth presence in the backfield.

Although the Braves have traditionally been a ground attack team, that’s been more from a set of circumstances and personnel, Vigil said. Whoever wins the quarterback job, expect SFIS to open up the offense more.

“I really want a balanced offense,” he said. “In the past, because of limitations of the quarterbacks in being able to throw and read defenses, here at Indian School, we’ve had to lean more toward the run. We like to lead with our fullback. We try to get our quicker, faster kids outside in the slots, especially against the bigger schools. At the end of the day, I want to be as balanced as possible because we usually see a lot of eight-man boxes.”

That means the wide outs will need to step up and whoever finishes second on the quarterback confrontation will likely be getting time on the outside.

The offensive effort will be aided by a fairly veteran line led by senior Elian Tosa (6-0, 200).

The players are buying into Vigil’s program and work ethic, and this could be the season that it shows up in the standings.

“They’re definitely very familiar with how we run things and what I expect of them,” he said. “I think it’s going really well. All the kids here are great. As far as wins and losses, that’s not showing up yet. But we’re starting to get a commitment to the program, which is excellent.”

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