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Prep preview: No. 9 Del Norte looks to take the next step

Bruce Binkley – the metro area’s most animated head football coach – has been thinking a lot about 1997.

Not just because this current group of seniors, which were freshmen when he became the Del Norte High School football coach three years ago, are his first batch of four-year players in this program.

No, 1997 is significant because that is the last year that the Knights won a playoff game.

If Del Norte does nothing else this year but wins a playoff game, that would likely suffice for Binkley.

In coachspeak, this goal has a common two-word description.

Next step.

“The next logical step,” Binkley said.

Del Norte comes in at No. 9 in the Journal’s preseason metro top-10.

His Knights, 5-6 last year and champions of District 2-5A, have a change at quarterback this year, and Binkley thinks the pieces are in place to not only reach the postseason, but advance past the first round.

“This year it’s the time,” he said.

Senior Dante Mora – a transfer from New Mexico Military in Roswell, where he played as a freshman and sophomore – takes over at QB for Del Norte. He played behind Tyrelle Jackson last year.

However, it’s really the Knights’ potentially potent 1-2 backfield combination of Avery See and Parker Herndon that could prove to be the difference in Del Norte’s ability to make noise in November.

“He’s a monster,” Binkley said of the 225-pound See, as physical a runner as there is in these parts.

“I have high hopes,” See said. “I want at least 1,500 yards.”

Herndon has been oft-injured in his prep career, but Binkley hopes he’ll be upright for 10 games (and then some) this season.

Del Norte has 19, four-year seniors who were with Binkley after he left Volcano Vista to come to Del Norte.

Coach: Bruce Binkley (4th year; 12-19)

Last season: 5-6; lost 35-0 in 5A first round to Aztec

Returning starters: 5 offense, 7 defense

Key players: Parker Herndon, sr. (5-10, 175, RB/CB); Tony Swanson, sr. (6-0, 230, LB/TE); Gabe DeSoto, sr. (6-1, 260, G/DE); Dante Mora, sr. (6-1, 185, QB); Isaako Iafeta, sr. (5-11, 225, C/DE); Jaren Schneider, jr. (6-0, 240, DE); Jose Leyba, sr. (5-10, 180, OLB/RB); Avery See, jr. (6-1, 225, RB/LB); Mister McGriff, sr. (6-0, 170, OLB/WR); Curtis Gillespie, sr. (5-10, 160, CB/WR); Andrew Apodaca, sr. (6-1, 250, OL); Austin Barnes, jr. (6-3, 270, OT).

Outlook: The Knights are overwhelmingly favored to win the super-weak District 2-5A, so this season really becomes about what Del Norte does in key nondistrict games (St. Pius, Aztec and Los Lunas), and in the playoffs. Mora takes over from Tyrelle Jackson at QB, and he’s got some outstanding runners behind him, led by See and Herndon. Barnes already is getting a look from UNM, Binkley said, while McGriff is drawing interest from New Mexico Highlands, and DeSoto is a stellar two-way lineman. This team, as you may have noticed, has some tremendous size for a 5A program. “We are not small,” Binkley said with a laugh. Defense is a strength at every level.

2015 Del Norte schedule

(x-denotes District 2-5A game)

Aug. 28, at St. Pius (M), 7 p.m.

Sept. 5, at Albuquerque High (M), 1 p.m.

Sept. 11, at Centennial, 7 p.m.

Sept. 19, Aztec (M), 1 p.m.

Sept. 25, Los Lunas (M), 7 p.m.

Oct. 1, La Cueva (W), 7 p.m.

x-Oct. 8, Bernalillo (M), 7 p.m.

x-Oct. 16, at Española Valley, 7 p.m.

x-Oct. 23, at Capital, 7 p.m.

Oct. 30, IDLE

x-Nov. 6, Los Alamos (M), 7 p.m.

Circle the date: The Knights have had a terrible time with Los Lunas since Binkley took over — losses of 51-3, 50-0 and 50-12 — and that is one team Del Norte desperately wants to beat.