Prep FB: Silverbacks creating their own Legacy in first season - Albuquerque Journal

Prep FB: Silverbacks creating their own Legacy in first season

Legacy Academy’s football team exits the locker room prior to its game Thursday night vs. Tatum at Menaul. The first-year program is under the leadership of former Lobo Bryan Clampitt. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)
There is something singularly special about being in on the ground floor of a high school sports program, and the football players at 8-Man Legacy Academy appreciate, and embrace, the grass roots nature of their surroundings.

“You’ve seen it throughout history,” said senior tight end/defensive end/punter Jacob Smithson. “That starting team is the one that people look back on. They’re like, ‘These are the guys who did it; they’re the reason we’re out here.’ ”

The Silverbacks already were active in other varsity sports, like boys basketball, but football is a new endeavor for the West Side school.

Legacy Academy doesn’t yet have a home field and is staging home games at Menaul School — a district rival — this season.

And the Silverbacks are dealing with all the growing pains you’d expect a first-year program would endure. They fell to 0-5 Thursday night with a 52-22 loss to visiting Tatum.

But, despite being a fresh face on the prep football scene, Legacy Academy hasn’t shied from taking on some of the marquee names in 8-Man as it gets started in this spot. The Silverbacks have faced Melrose, Fort Sumner/House, Lordsburg and Clayton — the top four ranked teams in the 8-Man classification. Those four outscored the Silverbacks by a combined 200-14.

But scheduling such schools is part of the hard-nosed culture former Lobo Bryan Clampitt, Legacy Academy’s head coach, wants to instill. It’s a philosophy he absorbed from Rocky Long, the coach he played for as a Lobo.

“Toughness and working hard. Coach Long always set that blue collar type of attitude,” said Clampitt, who is a campus pastor. “We didn’t have the best 5-star recruits. We had the 2- and 3-star guys, but we’d bust our butts. … We might not be more talented than them, but they’re gonna hate to play us, because we’re fighting and we’re tough. We’re trying to build that culture into them. That’s what we’re working towards.”

As with most first-year varsity programs, Legacy Academy is short on experienced players. Just under a quarter of the team’s 27 players brought some previous football experience to the high school level. And all of them were rookies when it came to the inherently faster 8-Man style.

“I’ve seen how hard everyone on this team has worked,” said sophomore linebacker A.J. Quesada, who has seven YAFL seasons under his belt. “And I’ve seen the leaps and strides we’ve made from where we started to where we are now. I’m proud of how this team is coming together. … I’m excited to see what happens.”

Clampitt admitted there was an early adjustment that needed to be made from his chair as Legacy undertook football.

“When I first started,” Clampitt said with a smile, “I was ready to implement the West Coast system we ran at UNM. I quickly realized, we have to simplify this thing. And that’s helped them perform better.”

Clampitt said he has noticed progress.

“That first game (at Melrose), there was a lot of fear, a lot of nervousness, a lot of deer-in-the-headlights kind of looks,” he said. “They’ve really learned to let that go.”

Senior quarterback Joey Gonzales is one of the most experienced football players in the Legacy Academy program, with half a dozen years playing YAFL in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.

“It definitely has been a huge jump for most people,” said Gonzales, who said he played freshman football at Cleveland. “(But) you can definitely see the results. Everyone is doing better. It’s a slow progression, but we’re getting there, for sure.”

Said Clampitt, “As far as challenges go, I would say that’s the biggest thing, is probably our inexperience. We’re starting from the ground up, and the kids from the ground up. Building a foundation and fundamentals.”

The Silverbacks’ offseason began in February. Or in their case, it is probably more accurate to refer to it as a very lengthy preseason, seeing as how there was no 2021 season.

Gonzales said his brief time with the Storm taught him the value of creating a program.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “The coaches at Cleveland would show us film of their very first football team (in 2009). I remember thinking, ‘These guys started a program; that’s crazy.’ I never imagined I’d be someone like that, helping to start a program.”

Legacy Academy is in an 8-Man district with Pine Hill, Questa and Menaul. Legacy will be the home team at the Panthers’ stadium in the regular season finale on Oct. 21. And the Silverbacks expect to be further along in October than they are in September, just as they are further along in September than they were in August.

“A lot of ups and downs, but as we go along, we’re getting better, little by little,” Smithson said, adding, “It’s been pretty great.”

Clampitt agrees.

“Although it hasn’t gone the way we’ve wanted, there’s been a lot of great progress made,” he said. “And there are a lot of bright spots that we can build on for the future.”

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