BERNALILLO: Anthony Jaramillo is the Spartans’ new coach and enters the 2014 season with optimism.
For one thing, with 32 players at tryouts, he said the school is looking to field a junior varsity team “for the first time since who knows when.”
The Spartans have nine starters returning from varsity; look for defense to be Bernalillo’s best area with senior Jaime Alvarado leading the way and getting help from juniors Isaac Gutierrez and Moises De Santiago.
“We had our struggles, but we return a lot of guys,” said Jaramillo. “I expect us to make a lot of progress.”
BOSQUE SCHOOL: The Bobcats, state runners-up to Sandia Prep in Class 1A-3A last season, have five starters back but it’s a “young group with a small senior class,” veteran coach Klaus Weber said.
While Bosque has speed and technical savvy, experience and size are lacking.
Forward/midfielder Dylan Chant, offensive midfielder Aaron McCallister and midfielder Kyle Gay are among the Bobctats’ top talent, and Barrett Meigs is coming off a solid year in goal for Bosque.
“We have the talent pool, it’s just a matter of can they keep up,” Weber said.
CIBOLA: The Cougars may have surprised some people with their 9-0 start and an impressive run to the second round of state tournament play last season. They won’t fly under anyone’s radar in 2014.
Having lost just three seniors, coach Cameron Clarke knows Cibola will carry a target.
“Maturity is a big thing for us,” Clarke said. “We had to learn to deal with success and knowing we’re going to get everyone’s best game. We were so young last year, I think it just became a weight on our shoulders.”
With Sergio Rivas, Diego Chavez and Josh Garcia back to anchor a talented midfield, the Cougars now have experience to complement their ability. They’ll need it to fight for a title in a loaded District 1-6A.
“We have a good rivalry with Volcano Vista,” Clarke said, “and you can never count out the Rio Rancho schools. Hopefully, we’ll be a little bit stronger than we were last year because we’re going to be facing top competition every time out.”
CLEVELAND: The Storm and coach Shaun Gill are the one team in District 1-6A – not including newcomer Santa Fe – that has struggled to find its way into the playoffs.
But Gill hopes that will change. While Cibola is a clear favorite, “I’m hoping we’re fighting Volcano Vista for second, to be real honest with you,” he said.
Cleveland has experience at key positions with four-year starters Josiah Mahboub, a forward, and defender Ben Brewer, plus three-year goalkeeper Cory Jenkins.
Cleveland beat Oñate 3-2 on Friday in its season opener.
RIO RANCHO: Coach John Shepard wasn’t yet ready to delve too much into his 2014 team.
“We’re pretty young,” he said, “so it’s yet to be determined.”
The Rams, who opened Friday against Las Cruces, are led by senior midfielder Dakota Marquez, junior goalkeeper Nate Yeager and junior midfielder Robbie Leonard.
Rio Rancho missed the playoffs last season.
ST. PIUS: Losing is a word that doesn’t sit well around the St. Pius program.
The 9-12 record the Sartans posted last season was the worst record for the school in nearly two decades. They lost to Capital in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.
“It’s the school’s first losing season in a long, long time,” head coach Ron Allen said. “It was a very disappointing season, and it’s something that we want to correct and build on.”
Defense will be key for the Sartans this fall.
“Because of the scheme we’re going to be running, (defender Kiko) Macias is going to have to understand that he is going to be the glue for our defense,” Allen said. “He’s got a good supporting cast around him in Joey Sinclair, a senior right back, and we’re looking forward for the rest of the guys to put it together for us.”
VALLEY: The Vikings feature one of the metro area’s best players in senior midfielder Grant Rowe, who led Valley in scoring last season.
He’s one of five starters who return for Valley.
“We’re gonna be young and old,” head coach Ron Worley said. “We have quite a few seniors, but we also have a couple of freshmen who will make a big impact on the team.”
Rowe, senior goalkeeper Hunter Havenor and senior defender Carlos Alonso are all veterans in the program who contributed as freshmen.
“It’s gonna be an interesting year for us,” Worley said. “I don’t think anyone will count us out.”
VOLCANO VISTA: It’s difficult to get a definitive answer out of Hawks coach Billy Thiebaut.
He doesn’t yet have a fix on where Volcano Vista fits into the Class 6A picture, only that it fits in somewhere. The Hawks lost in the state finals last fall to Las Cruces High.
“It’s just a matter of team chemistry and whether we can put it together,” said Thiebaut. “We can be in the mix, but I don’t think we’re in the top tier right now.”
The Hawks have one of 6A’s top players in senior defenseman Parker Conaway, a first-team, All-State selection last season.
That defense should be one of the metro area’s top groups.
WEST MESA: The Mustangs are in total rebuilding mode as the former girls coach for the school, Enrique Serrano, moves over to coach the boys.
West Mesa labored with only three wins last year.
“The program is really in a bad state right now,” Serrano said. “We do have some kids who have a lot of talent, but they don’t have the discipline or interest in pursuing soccer. … We’re fixing that and they’re responding well.”
Top players for West Mesa include senior forward Danny Araujo, sophomore goalkeeper Edgar Ruiz, and the Ituarte brothers, senior defender Pablo and sophomore defender Andres.