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Yodice: Dwindling football roster has Valley coach puzzled

Someone contacted Valley High School football coach Judge Chavez recently, inquiring about next year’s North-South game and if any Vikings might be worthy of selection.

There was just one teency weency problem: Only seniors are eligible for those all-star games. And Valley doesn’t have any on its roster. Not a one.

“We’re in a really bad situation,” said Chavez.

It’s been an odd season for Valley, which just a year ago won seven times, including a playoff game, and reached the Class 5A quarterfinals.

Nearly a year later, the Vikings (0-6 after a loss Thursday to Del Norte) are trying to merely manage their way to the end of a grueling season.

Last week, Valley had to pull the plug on its junior varsity season, Chavez said. And the Vikings aren’t rolling in numbers for their varsity games, either.

“Right now,” said the veteran Chavez, “we’re starting three offensive linemen that were backups on the (C-Team) last year.”

This season was always going to be tough sledding for Valley. Even in the summer, Chavez said he only had a handful of seniors projected to play. It was going to be a young, untested group.

Four of those seniors quit, Chavez said. The other got injured.

Hence, young players who almost certainly are not yet varsity ready “are being thrown into the fire,” Chavez said. “And it’s really not fair to them.”

Valley plays Rio Grande next week before closing the season with district games against Belen, Los Lunas and Valencia. All but Los Lunas are having some troubles of their own.

Chavez has coached eight teams in his career at Highland and Cibola to at least the state semifinals. But he has been forced to question some things.

“Maybe those kids don’t want to play for me,” he said. “But last year, we had the same coaching staff and we won seven games. If kids don’t want to play football, I don’t know what more I can do.”

One of the things Valley will have to work out for 2020 is, how many teams can it support? Varsity, JV and C-Team? Or just varsity and C-Team?

“I’ve never been in this situation,” Chavez said.

REVERSALS: One of the metro area’s best football stories is Menaul, which is 5-0 and ranked No. 3 in the 8-Man coaches poll behind Melrose and Tatum.

After half a dozen consecutive years with lethargic starts, Menaul appears primed to make a strong playoff run next month.

“We’ve grown a lot since our (playoff) loss to Tatum last year,” said Panthers coach Josh Baca.

Baca credits a committed senior group for spearheading the first-half charge at Menaul, which was off this week. The current seniors started with Baca as freshmen in 2016.

But in addition to a couple of crucial new players, Baca has moved some pieces around this season, which he credits for the perfect start.

“We were juggling them around to see what would work best,” Baca said. “This year, we’ve put some kids where they can really excel.”

Senior Benjamin Morales moved from quarterback to tailback, where he is thriving. Cody Leslie (6-4 and 215 pounds) moved from tight end to QB. Santiago Henry, in his first year playing football, has produced at receiver and at cornerback.

Menaul (which is only carrying 13 players) often starts so sluggishly because school begins later than at other places, and Baca frequently doesn’t exactly have a sense of his roster for the first month of the season because of some late arrivals on campus.

A 20-HOUR GAME, KIND OF: Farmington finished off a 38-6 win over Rio Grande at about 3 p.m. Saturday. Which would be just fine, except this game kicked off at 7 p.m. Friday.

There were all sorts of issues with the lights at Milne Stadium on Friday, which led to two delays. Eventually, early in the second quarter, officials just suspended the game, with the intent of starting up again at 1 p.m. Saturday at Nusenda Community Stadium. Farmington was leading 7-0 at the time of the delay.

But the Scorpions hadn’t planned on spending the night. They were going to drive home after the game Friday.

Thus, they were left scrambling – on the night before the Balloon Fiesta, no less – to locate 15 hotel rooms on short notice. With a bunch of help from parents, Farmington eventually found a hotel in Albuquerque that could handle their needs.

“We got really lucky,” Farmington coach Jeff Dalton said late Saturday afternoon. “We didn’t think we’d be able to find any in Albuquerque, so we started calling hotels in Belen and Los Lunas.”

The unexpected expense for Farmington’s school district is estimated between $2,500 and $3,000.

THIS AND THAT: Lovington renamed its blue turf Brian Urlacher Field, in honor of the Wildcats’ alum and NFL Hall of Famer, who was in attendance at their home game Friday against Goddard. … Great to see Tyler Jenson of La Cueva make his season debut for the Bears on Friday night as Jenson has come back from a lower leg injury. … What a difference a month makes. Tatum lost by 36 points to Melrose on Sept. 6, but beat the Buffaloes 32-14 on Friday in a pairing of Nos. 1 and 2 in 8-Man. That’s a 54-point turnaround. Scheduling is tough for the Coyotes, who play three schools – Melrose, Mesilla Valley and Gateway Christian – twice apiece this year. … There was no official word Saturday about the status of Cleveland quarterback Jeff Davison, who left Friday’s game against Atrisco Heritage and was seen with his right arm in a sling after landing on it. The Storm faces Cibola next week.

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