High School Football Preview

Taos’ Uriel Chavez plays defense against Pojoaque Valley during a 7-on-7 game at Taos High Schoo July 23. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

CAPITAL HS: Building off the traditions

Reinventing the wheel is not what new Capital coach Joaquin Garcia wants to do with the Jaguars.

He just wants to continue building the program into a consistent winner, while putting his own stamp on things.

Sounds easy, but Garcia knows he is facing a difficult task to get the Jaguars where he wants them to go.

“Of course, we started later than everybody, but we participated in a few 7-on-7s,” he said. “We got better each week. That was my main goal, have them compete and, each time we competed, we got better.”

Capital has been getting a regular turnout of about 40 players, with others dropping in when able, Garcia said.

“We have a lot of kids who work,” he said. “But we’ve had a consistent core of kids. The other ones have been sporadic at times, showing up for a couple of workouts when they can.”

The 2020 season was expected to be a big one for the Jaguars, with numerous talented seniors ready to take Capital beyond just a playoff berth, and in a deep run. While the virus wiped away those thoughts, Garcia said the program was still in a good position when he assumed the whistle.

“When I took over, that was my goal, to get kids interested and continue the traditions at Capital,” he said. “I’m not coming in and switching the logo or anything. I’m just trying to build off Capital and the traditions that they have.”

Jaguars fans may notice some differences in alignments, though.

“We are switching offenses and defenses, so people are going to see a change there, but, other than that, we’re continuing with what the Capital kids bring,” Garcia said.

And he expects those Capital kids to bring a lot.

“We’ve got good athletes. Some basketball players have actually started to come out,” Garcia said. “We’re excited to have them. Coach (Ben) Gomez with the basketball program and I think the two programs can work well together.”

Junior quarterback Julian Muñoz has looked strong in the passing camps this summer, Garcia said, while speedy junior wide receiver Anthony Anaya III looks like he has tremendous promise.

Two-way linemen Anthony Anaya, Avelino Trujillo and Javier Martinez will provide a solid core up front.

Meanwhile, basketball players James Rolleta and Francisco Diaz will deliver a healthy dose of athleticism that is always welcome on football teams, Garcia said.

“A lot of these guys are multiple sports guys, basketball and football, and a lot of kids that do basketball, baseball and football,” Garcia said. “They’ve had some busy summers. They’ve been making an effort to be at all of them. But the kids are buying into what we’re doing.”

POJOAQUE VALLEY HS: Bigger, faster, stronger

Pojoaque Valley football opponents might not recognize the Elks this season.

Sure, the trademark green and antler horns on the helmets will remain, but the players inside those uniforms have undergone a transformation.

“We’ve got a bigger roster. Bigger, faster, stronger,” coach Pat Mares said. “That’s going to help a lot.”

Entering his fourth year with the program, Mares has a group of leaders who have been along for the entire ride.

“We’re led by a good handful of seniors who have been with me since they were freshmen,” Mares said. “They’ve helped pave the path forward to where we’re going to be headed this year.”

The team took on the governor’s health mandates as if they were a personal challenge to overcome, then did just that.

“We stuck in there,” Mares said. “We stayed in the trenches, stayed working out on the field and off the field, with all the COVID, and I saw something change with their mentality and motivation through all of the ups and downs. They really came through.”

The Elks split their four games in the spring and put up 86 total points in the final two games.

“We put a lot of points on the board and the defense stayed strong,” the coach said. “We did some great things. I’ve seen transition into the summer with the 7-on-7 passing leagues.”

Junior quarterback Adam Pacheco (5 foot, 11 inches, 185 pounds) has made tremendous strides in the spring and summer, Mares said.

“He understands everything from the pre-snap into the actual snap defenses, and he’s putting the ball where it needs to be,” he said.

What’s more, Pacheco has a receiving corps that could be potentially dynamite.

“My opinion is we have two of the best receivers in the state,” Mares said.

D’Sean Martinez (6-1, 210) leads the three senior receivers, with Anthony Mellow Chavez (5-9, 170) lining up in the slot and Jacob Sullivan (5-10, 175) taking up the other outside wideout position.

“They didn’t stop working out through the whole COVID thing,” Mares said of the trio. “I got a lot of compliments about them.”

And massive senior running back/middle linebacker Dominic Esquibal (6-0, 225) will punish opponents on both side of the ball.

“He does not shy away from contact,” Mares said. “He actually looks for it. He’s coming downhill both ways.”

Now it is a matter of doing it when the whistle blows.

“This is a strong year for us,” Mares said, noting the team has 17 seniors. “We’re putting everything on the burner and let’s hope for something good. Everybody’s goal is to hold up the state title trophy. If we get our mentality right for each game, and take it game by game and, hopefully, we’ll end up in a good position to compete for a district title. Right now, it’s baby steps first to go for a bigger goal. They’ve been working their tails off for four years.”

TAOS HS: ‘We’re gonna ride this one out’

There are so many new faces hitting the Taos football field, coach Art Abreu Jr. sometimes must wonder whose team he’s watching.

Abreu is able to quickly tick off four players he expects to dominate at their positions. After that, well, it’s a matter of who is going to step up to fill the gaps.

“We’re going to be young,” he said. “We’ve got those four guys coming back and pretty much everybody who’s back. Everyone else is going to be brand new and fresh. That’s the hand we’ve been dealt and we’re going to ride this one out.”

About those four players, it starts with junior quarterback Daemon Ely (6 foot, 6 inches, 195 pounds). A multi-sport star who is also the Tigers’ starting center on the basketball team and stud pitcher on the baseball team, Ely doesn’t have a lot of experience under center, but his promise is unlimited. He might even force Abreu to open up the Taos offense to take advantage of his big arm.

“We’re working every part of the depth chart,” the coach said. “He’s able to operate the system and be as efficient as he can be. He’s had a good summer and gotten some good quality reps under his belt.”

He’ll have a quality deep threat, as well, in junior receiver Fabian Cordova (6-1½, 180 pounds).

“He’s had one heck of a summer,” Abreu said. “He’s a football guy and a track guy. He’s going to be doing it all for us as far the outside goes. He’s our starting cornerback and is a three-year start at that position.”

Providing Ely some time to find Cordova, senior linemen Ryan Garcia (5-8, 275) and Uriel Chavez (5-9, 200) will both be in the running for post-season honors, Abreu said.

Garcia kind of ate his way through the quarantine, but then turned it to his advantage.

“The quarantine was a little bit heavy on him, but he used it to his advantage,” Abreu said. “He’s transferred a lot of that COVID weight into muscle.”

And Chavez, “talking about a kid who took advantage of the quarantine, he got himself invested in his body, doing pushups and legs squats, and anything he could do to transition something significant in the COVID season. He’s really thrived over the summer.”

Finding enough quality players to stack in around the other four will, however, be quite the task.

“Numbers are down, as I expect they are for everyone else in the state,” Abreu said. “We’re at 30-32 kids, and usually I’m fielding 45-50. Pandemic did have its effect up here in Taos. So, that’s what this season is going to represent. For our squad, we’re going to be piecing together and matching week by week for a team.”

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