Whenever New Mexico’s high schools are realigned, and this occurs every two years, it usually drives a lot of chatter that doesn’t involve actual football games.
The latest shuffling occurred last week, with schools moving up, down and even sideways.
MANZANO. First, let’s acknowledge this sobering reality: The Monarchs won a Class 6A state title just four years ago, but have hemorrhaged enough students to compel the New Mexico Activities Association to drop Manzano into Class 5A. That aside, Manzano’s new football district is a relatively friendly grouping, with due respect to Valley, Del Norte and Los Alamos. But they ain’t La Cueva, Eldorado and Sandia, which makes this a positive development for Manzano going forward.
LOS LUNAS. The Tigers, in their move to 6A, could scarcely have done better if they drew up their new district themselves. They avoided the Rio Rancho schools and the Northeast Heights powers like La Cueva and Eldorado, which was a triumph. Los Lunas, the 5A state champ as of last weekend, faces a softer district lineup that now includes Clovis, Albuquerque High, Santa Fe and Capital.
GADSDEN. Mayfield has been a thorn in the Panthers’ side for decades, but Gadsden appears in this column because Mayfield was taken out of that south-central district (which now includes Gadsden, which had been playing as an independent) and put into another district. For that matter, Deming, Santa Teresa and Chaparral are winners by association here based on the Trojans’ future absence.
SILVER. The Colts, geographically speaking, have been on an island for many years, and they still are. But this new Class 4A district, with St. Pius, Valencia and Grants, is quite a bit easier from a time and travel standpoint than having to motor the buses off to Ruidoso, Lovington and Portales. It’s better for Silver competitively speaking, too.
ROUNDING UP THE REST. West Mesa belongs here. District 2-6A could allow the Mustangs more room to breathe than unforgiving 1-6A. … Santa Fe, Clovis and AHS also go into this group, and they’ll all find their new district more forgiving. … Belen would be a candidate to appear in this column, with the up-and-coming Eagles no longer having to deal with Los Lunas and getting a new district with Miyamura, Highland and Piedra Vista.
MAYFIELD. Chaparral, Santa Teresa, Deming and Gadsden cannot be unhappy about the imminent exit of the Trojans from their regional district. Mayfield instead was inserted into a ridiculously competitive Class 5A district including Artesia, Goddard and Roswell. That is a murderers’ row of football bluebloods that were all seeded in the top six at state this fall. It’s an absolutely brutal draw for the Trojans, who replace Alamogordo.
FARMINGTON. I include the Scorpions in this column if only because compared to Los Lunas, Farmington was given a more difficult task than the Tigers as it transitions into 6A, and annual meetings with La Cueva and Eldorado.
ALBUQUERQUE ACADEMY/BERNALILLO. Bottom line, the Chargers’ and Spartans’ new district is going to be significantly more demanding, and travel-intensive, than their previous one, as Academy and Bernalillo gain state champ Lovington and Portales as league dance partners in 2022 and 2023. On the plus side, prep football fans in the metro area will get to see the Wildcats, who we almost never see up here, at least once in each of the next two seasons.
HOPE CHRISTIAN. With Ruidoso dropping from Class 4A to 3A, the Warriors, coming off a state runner-up finish in 4A last weekend, were placed in a league with Hope, plus other excellent programs like Dexter and New Mexico Military Institute. This is going to tax the Huskies in the short term.
CLAYTON/LORDSBURG. The Yellowjackets and Mavericks are leaving 11-Man football for 8-Man next year, a sad development, but these two longtime reputable programs have fallen victim to a trend that’s been ongoing for quite a long time in New Mexico, which is the slow bleeding out of the state’s small towns. Animas would be the most prominent example, as the Panthers once were on the cover of Life magazine for their magnificent 11-Man exploits but now compete in the 6-Man division.