When it was clear several months ago that there would be no high school football this fall, players were left to deal with widespread frustration and disappointment.
And few athletes are going to be as heavily impacted as Sam Carrell.
After the governor prohibited prep football this fall, and with the New Mexico Activities Association having shifted it to the spring, that meant Carrell almost certainly would not have had a senior season at Sandia.
The Matador defensive end, who made a commitment in April to play at Baylor, said he plans to graduate in December and thus bypass the state’s condensed 2021 high school season.
“It’s just a messed up situation,” said Carrell, one of New Mexico’s top football prospects. “I was planning on playing the season. I’m very glad I got my scholarship (offer) when I did (in April), before all the coronavirus stuff started going bad.”
And, in fact, Carrell said he made his decision to graduate early before Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham postponed contact sports until 2021.
Carrell, whose father Richard once played for coach Fisher DeBerry at the Air Force Academy, was going to finish his prep career at Sandia this fall, graduate and then be one of the handful of 2021 Baylor recruits in Waco, Texas, come January for the spring semester.
“I’m not going to rethink my decision to graduate early,” Carrell said.
The early signing period for football is Dec. 16-18.
“I would say a lot of athletes are very upset at (Lujan Grisham’s) decision,” Carrell said. “I don’t see why the NFL can play, but high school kids that need football and stuff to stay on track and do the right thing, can’t play.”
Both the NFL and now college football at the University of New Mexico (through the Mountain West Conference) have regular testing procedures for athletes and coaches, although both entities have faced numerous positive COVID-19 tests and had to reschedule games as a result. No such testing program exists for the state’s high school football programs.
The 6-foot-4½, 257-pound Carrell said the toughest part of this equation is the prospect of not being able to gain closure to his prep career. He did, however, leave the door very slightly ajar that he might still being in Albuquerque next semester. But that sounded unlikely.
“Nothing would make me happier than playing my senior season with my teammates,” Carrell said. “But with corona … it’s just a crappy situation. Everything that’s going on, it’s taking energy, you know?”
Asked if he thought New Mexico could have gone forward with prep football this fall – a truncated, seven-game regular season is now scheduled to begin in early March – Carrell didn’t hesitate.
“We should have,” he said. “One hundred percent.”