Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Although the players on the field likely have never seen “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” the iconic line of “Who are those guys?” that the two anti-heroes bat back and forth at each other in the movie’s opening sequences certainly applies to the soccer programs at Santa Fe High School.
The Demons and Demonettes have never been confused with the programs at La Cueva or St. Pius or Albuquerque Academy, where both boys and girls regularly make long runs during the state tournament and frequently end up parading around the field with the blue trophy.
As a matter of fact, Santa Fe High has all too frequently been that game on the schedule where opposing coaches look forward to seeing their bench players getting many minutes after the starters built big leads.
But, now, opponents have to be scratching their heads and wondering, “Who are those guys?”
Well, whoever they are, they’re pretty darned good.
Late into the third week of the season, both the Santa Fe boys and the girls were undefeated, and wreaking mayhem and havoc on soccer pitches across the land. That’s pretty good for programs that have never won a state championship; only the girls have even reached the final game and that came in the hazy past of 1981.
“We’re at a level that’s unparalleled,” said boys coach Chris Eadie. “When I previously coached the team for eight or nine years, or since I’ve taken over, I don’t know of any time (that) both the boys and girls have been this strong simultaneously. Our ranking is unprecedented.”
The ranking to which he refers is No. 1 in the MaxPreps poll, which Eadie readily admits is a bit misleading.
“We haven’t even played a 5A team yet,” he said. “But there is no denying we are a strong team; I just don’t know how strong.”
Eadie, who earlier coached the Demons before a lengthy absence, returned to the school for the spring season and, even though the team didn’t perform all that well – finishing below .500 for the eighth time in the past 10 seasons – the coach saw a team that was coming together.
Add in Taos transfer Alex Waggoner, who has remarkably scored at least a hat trick in the team’s first seven games, and, all of sudden, the Demons are a juggernaut.
“It’s crazy to think that this kid comes in, he’s a goal-scoring phenom,” Eadie said. “His offensive prowess is unmatched based on what I’ve seen in the state this year.”
Add in such players as Michael Wissman, who has seven goals and 12 assists, and also plays alongside Waggoner in club ball; as well as Jack Joseph with four goals and four assists; Ivan Lozano with five goals; and Henry Mazulis with three goals and six assists, and the Demons’ offense will simply wear down opponents over an 80-minute game.
“We score a lot of goals when the opposition is weakening,” Eadie said. “I’m pleased with all of that. That’s the difference from years past. That comes with leadership, maturity and trust.”
For the Demonettes, despite going through multiple coaches, a core group of young players thrown into the fires as eighth graders and freshmen have matured into a cadre of tight-knit teammates who have each other’s back on and off the field.
“I think we all got a lot closer and built connections together, and we were able to build that family bond together,” said junior Tatiana Winter. “Because of that, we’re able to connect really well on the field. We’ve been through a couple of coaches, but because the team’s bond as a whole is so strong, we’re able to adjust to each other.”
The girls are spreading their goal-scoring around, with six players collecting at least three goals, led by Jazzi Gonzalez with eight, and seven players dishing out at least two assists, again led by Gonzalez with seven.
First-year Demonettes coach Justin Najaka said there’s no real magic to the team’s success.
“You’ve got to give credit to the girls,” he said. “They’re an amazing team. They’re motivated and driven. They want to get better. They see that they’re a good team, and they want to keep working harder and harder every day.”
And with that kind of attitude, Najaka said, teams won’t really be wondering who are those guys?
“They have a strong foundation,” he said. “They’ve been working. The core group has been together for several years and that has helped them out. And the desire for them to be successful is amazing. They’re very supportive of each other and they push each other every day.”