Some major changes are going to be incorporated into New Mexico’s next two high school football seasons.
The New Mexico Activities Association on Thursday unveiled its realignment and classification plan for those two years, and several of the state’s football classes are undergoing a cosmetic makeover.
Manzano, as has long been rumored, is moving down from Class 6A to 5A. When Gadsden re-emerges next year to join a district after competing most recently as an independent, the Panthers, too, will be classified as a 5A program.
Four previous 5A schools in football are moving up into Class 6A, including the top two seeds from this year’s playoffs, Farmington and Los Lunas. Capital and Alamogordo also are getting a bump due their enrollment figures exceeding the threshold to remain in 5A.
Farmington, Capital, Alamogordo and Los Lunas already were playing in the largest class in the other sports like basketball.
But their additions to the 6A football field, plus the situations surrounding Manzano and Gadsden, consequently, have created a slew of new-look districts coming down the pike.
Los Lunas, which won the 5A state title last weekend, is joining a district in 6A that also will include Clovis, Capital, Santa Fe and Albuquerque High. Clovis, Santa Fe and AHS were previously in District 2 with La Cueva, Eldorado, Sandia and Manzano.
Farmington, the No. 1 football seed in 5A this year, faces difficult sledding in a new district with La Cueva, Eldorado, Sandia and West Mesa. The Mustangs have been switched from District 1 to District 2 in football. West Mesa already was in District 2 in other sports.
District 1 loses West Mesa, but the rest of that powerhouse league remains as is, with Cleveland, Rio Rancho, Cibola, Volcano Vista and Atrisco Heritage.
With Alamogordo going into 6A, the Tigers are being placed in District 3-6A, along with holdovers Carlsbad, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Centennial and Organ Mountain.
Class 6A will have four football districts going forward, one more than it had this most recent season, meaning there will be an additional automatic qualifier for the 2022 and 2023 postseasons.
From a basketball standpoint, schools such as Manzano, Piedra Vista, Gadsden, Mayfield and Roswell will be in the largest class, which is 5A, where there are five districts in that sport. Rio Grande is 5A in basketball but is going to continue to compete as an independent in football.
The NMAA’s enrollment threshold, based on an average of students at a school from 2019-20, 2020-21 and this year, is different for football than any other sport. Class 6A is 1,450-plus students based on that metric. In the other sports, to be in the largest class, it is 1,300-plus.
Class 5A football has 16 schools for the next two seasons. Manzano, just four years removed from winning the Class 6A state title, received an extremely favorable placement, with Del Norte, Valley and Los Alamos in their new district.
“It’s a positive for Manzano,” Monarchs coach Stephen Johnston said. “Our enrollment and demographics have changed drastically the last four years.”
The larger news in 5A football was its new super district, which indirectly was created by the addition of Gadsden. While the Panthers join Deming, Chaparral and Santa Teresa in one district, it was the fate of Mayfield that drew the most attention Thursday. The Trojans were shifted to a mega-competitive league that includes Artesia, Goddard and Roswell. All those programs are multiple state champions, and each was seeded in the top six in this year’s 5A playoffs.
The fourth district in 5A consists of Belen, Highland, Miyamura and Piedra Vista.
Hope Christian’s new district in Class 3A received a significant upgrade Thursday with the news that recent 4A state finalist Ruidoso is dropping down. The Warriors and Huskies are district partners, along with New Mexico Military Institute, Dexter and Tucumcari.
From a travel standpoint, four metro-area programs will be severely impacted by the new realignment of Class 4A.
Silver was yanked out of a travel-intensive district with Portales and Lovington, with the Colts now in a less-demanding travel league with Grants, St. Pius and Valencia.
As for Portales and 4A state champion Lovington, the Rams and Wildcats have two new long-distance district rivals in Bernalillo and Albuquerque Academy.
Two longtime 11-Man programs, Lordsburg and Clayton, are going to play 8-Man for at least the next two seasons.
The NMAA’s board of directors Thursday voted unanimously to approve the NMAA’s realignment plan. Schools that wish to appeal their placement have a few days to declare their intentions, and another board meeting is scheduled next Thursday to hear any appeals.
But with the football districts now set, athletic directors around the state can begin to plot their individual schedules for 2022 and 2023.
• There was brief discussion about the feasibility of adding a shot clock in basketball, although the cost for an individual school (estimated to be $10,000) will remain problematic for some. Also, NMAA executive director Sally Marquez reiterated that the larger schools seem more in favor of adding a shot clock than the smaller schools.
• Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Ralph Ramos asked the NMAA to consider perhaps adding flexibility to state championship sites, such as basketball.