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This Assignment Is Getting Tougher

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As the depth of quality prep football in the Albuquerque metro area becomes more apparent, my postseason assignment of choosing the Journal’s All-Metro team becomes almost exponentially more difficult.

There are 48 slots available and probably twice that number of kids who could reasonably fill them. The math, to be sure, does not work in my favor. And it bears repeating — unlike the coaches’ rather expansive All-Metro teams, we combine 4A and 5A (and 3A, if necessary) and limit it to just a first and second team. It’s like trying to cram 15 people into an SUV built for half that many. Not everyone gets to come along for this particular ride.

This was easily the most headache-inducing selection process I’ve had in whittling a huge list of candidates down to the final 48. And never have I had more uncertainty about the final list, despite my due diligence. I hope I have chosen wisely.

OFFENSE: Although he had a horrible playoff outing against Volcano Vista, Rio Rancho sophomore Easton Bruere is our first-team quarterback for 2012. For the most part, Bruere showed uncommon poise against a difficult schedule, and made some amazing clutch throws that allowed the Rams to be the No. 1 seed for the Class 5A playoffs.

At the other skill positions, an alteration has been made. Instead of three running backs and two receivers (2011), there are three receivers and two backs. Largely, this was done in deference to the talent pool at the wide receiver position, and because so many teams are now running the spread.

Still, my running back tandem is an excellent duo — La Cueva’s Michael Rose and Cleveland’s Romell Jordan.

At receiver, there were four stellar candidates for three spots. Tristen Foley of Rio Rancho was the odd man out, but by the slimmest of margins. My top three were La Cueva’s Chris Thompson, Manzano’s Skyler Walker and Sandia’s Brenden Barker.

Rio Rancho had the most first-team offensive selections (four), largely because of our inclusion of center Robert Salgado and guard Devon Bennett.

La Cueva tackle J.T. Boone was the anchor on a solid Bears front.

As with wide receiver, there were several attractive options at tackle; I went with Manzano’s Thomas Casias to join Boone, as Casias was often matched up against the top defensive ends in his district (like La Cueva’s Calvin Allen and Sandia’s Camrron Bean). To be fair, Sandia’s Buck Walden and Valley’s Elijah Schold could have filled this second slot quite ably, too.

Brandon Rael of Manzano is our other first-team guard.

For the second straight year, Rio Rancho’s Carlos Garcia is the first-team place-kicker and was an obvious choice.

Beyond the first team, one decision proved about as difficult as any — who was the second-best quarterback in the metro?

Zach Silva from La Cueva had a terrific year. Same for Bo Coleman at Valley, Chris Wisneski at Los Lunas, Zach Gentry of Eldorado and the very skilled option QB from Atrisco Heritage, Nate Goode.

My eventual choice was Sandia’s Craig Coffman, and if you saw the 5A final against Las Cruces, you know why. True, he was intercepted twice against Las Cruces. But for each of those two giveaways, he authored half a dozen outstanding plays, and was largely responsible for the Matadors nearly coming all the way back from a 21-0 deficit.

DEFENSE: There were just as many tough choices to be made on this side of the ball. I suspect the most pushback I’ll get is my decision to place La Cueva’s Allen, a University of Arizona recruit, on the second team.

I feel very comfortable with this trio of first-team defensive linemen, despite Allen’s credentials. Los Lunas’ Greg Wortman was a major factor on the end for the Tigers, who had the metro area’s best defense at any level.

The next-best defense probably belonged to Sandia, and the Matadors fill the other two slots up front with interior lineman Jeremiah Thompson and the amazing Bean.

Bean was at times just a force of nature; he destroyed Volcano Vista almost single-handedly in the 5A state semifinals. An epic performance.

Linebacker, where there is always the most depth, actually proved to be the easiest task this year.

It’s a rock-solid quartet, led by La Cueva’s Chris Loidolt and Mitchell Cantwell, Los Lunas’ great middle backer Isaac Parra and Volcano Vista’s Josh Lubold.

Cantwell and Rio Rancho’s Bruere are the only sophomores on the Journal’s All-Metro first team.

Rounding out the defense is an athletic, ball-hawking secondary of Cleveland’s Steven Steele, Sandia’s Aaron Smith, Volcano’s Joe Searcy-Ortega and Rio Rancho’s Dallin Brady. Tremendous speed and playmaking ability with those four.

Goode of Atrisco is our first-team punter.

Rio Rancho’s Garcia and the Cleveland duo, Jordan and Steele, are the only repeat first-team selections from last year.

With that I say, Merry Christmas to everyone.

In the spirit of the holiday season, I humbly ask my detractors to wait until at least Dec. 26 before you blast back at me.

(Journal)

View the 2012 Journal All-Metro Football teams

— This article appeared on page D4 of the Albuquerque Journal

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