Don’t think of the Journal’s short list of premier metro football players to watch for the 2022 season as the final say. Far from it, in fact. Think of it merely as being reflective of the depth of talent in and around Albuquerque this fall.
The Journal has put together a list of 10 names of some of the premier players in the area (see below), but you’ll read about many more athletes during the next three months. The season begins Thursday night.
Besides those on the list, some of the others you’ll be hearing about include Albuquerque Academy quarterback A.J. Rivera, who runs the controls on one of Class 4A’s best teams. And La Cueva sophomore Mason Posa, listed here as an outside linebacker but a versatile member of the Bears’ front eight – and already with a scholarship offer to the University of New Mexico.
Cleveland running back Josh Perry ran for four touchdowns in the state final last fall against Rio Rancho, after having missed the previous two months with an injury. Perry should be a tremendous presence in that Cleveland backfield, and he’s one of a handful of top metro backs. Big Cole Conway of Academy, who is built more like a tight end, is another.
Jacob Pino at Bernalillo and Alejandro Sapien at St. Pius could prove to be a pair of 4A’s most efficient, underrated QBs as they hope to lead their teams back to the postseason. Brent Miller, the QB at 3A Hope Christian, was a terrific running back last season, but he’s changing positions and is one of his classification’s top two-way talents.
Of course, there are any number of gifted newcomers who’ll be prominently featured. Cibola features the most high-profile newcomer.
When quarterback Aden Chavez of Cibola took his talents to Florida in the offseason, that created a void. Daniel Benham steps in and should benefit from the Cougars’ outstanding receiving talent, including Branden Castillo.
METRO PREP FOOTBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aidan Armenta, sr., QB, La Cueva: The strong-armed, 6-foot-3, 190-pound Armenta hopes to quarterback the Bears to a state title in November. Has a scholarship offer to the University of New Mexico.
Elijah Brody, jr., QB, West Mesa: The 6-3, 190-pound southpaw was nurtured in Cleveland’s QB-friendly system for years before transferring to the Mustangs. His father Landrick is now his head coach.
Gabriel Buie, sr., RB, La Cueva: Buie (5-10, 170) is among New Mexico’s best returning running backs, and expect electric playmaking from him in the Bears’ experienced and balanced offense.
Paul Cieremans, sr., QB, Los Lunas: Along with Cleveland’s Evan Wysong, he’s on the very short list of the elite dual-threat quarterbacks in New Mexico. Plenty of new faces around Cieremans (5-11, 195), who rushed for over 1,500 yards last fall.
Kellan Gehres, sr., WR, Albuquerque Academy: Gehres (6-0, 165) is one of the state’s top multi-sport athletes and caught a dozen TD passes with more than 1,100 yards in receiving as a junior. He commands attention.
Stratton Shufelt, jr., LB, Cleveland: Ordinarily this is a list top-heavy with offensive talent, but no way this list would be complete without Shufelt (6-3 220), a ferocious defender who might be New Mexico’s most elite defensive player.
Malachi Thymes, sr., RB, Sandia: The compact Thymes (5-8, 160) rushed for 1,150 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior, and he is arguably the most crucial piece to this Matadors offense.
Nic Trujillo, sr., slot, Cleveland: As with his QB, Trujillo (6-1, 175) has already committed to be a Lobo. Had 10 receiving TDs as a junior, and he’s one of those players a defense must always account for.
Marcus Wilson, jr., WR, Cibola: He’ll be working with a new QB this year, but the 6-4, 195-pound Wilson is nevertheless expected to be a consistent down-field threat coming off a 9-TD campaign as a sophomore.
Evan Wysong, sr., QB, Cleveland: Here is 6A’s fastest and possibly most elusive QB, and he’ll be capable of scoring from anywhere on the field if he tucks and runs. Wysong (5-11, 165) already has verbally committed to the Lobos.