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Yodice: Handing out prep football mid-term grades

Professor Y. was forced to delay assigning midterm grades last year due to a nasty bout of pneumonia, which undoubtedly was La Cueva’s fault. (La Cueva gets blamed for everything else, may as well pin this on them, too.)

However, we are back on schedule, and I’ve got my red pen out. As 17 of our 24 metro-area programs have reached their midway point of the regular season, it is time to hand out letter grades.

james yodice

My standing rule remains: don’t get caught up comparing one grade to another.

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ALBUQUERQUE ACADEMY (2-3): The easiest way to describe the first half is to say that the Chargers beat the two teams they were supposed to, and lost the other three. Quarterback Clay Crosby is performing well, but AA is hampered, as always, by a lack of size and a lack of depth. Grade: C

ALBUQUERQUE HIGH (2-2): Won’t mark the Bulldogs down too much for losses to Eldorado and Centennial. AHS has dealt with some key offensive injuries in the backfield, but is presented with a rare opportunity to gather some momentum going into district — and a winning streak! — if it can beat Cibola next week. Grade: C

ATRISCO HERITAGE: (0-3): Offense showed some life this weekend against Volcano Vista, but Jaguars need to improve much more rapidly on that side of the ball or someone like West Mesa (or someone else, perhaps) will become ruler of that one-bid district. Grade: D

BELEN (4-1): I feared the Eagles would slip up at the Wool Bowl, and they did, losing by almost three touchdowns to Roswell on Friday. Belen hadn’t been tested much in its opening four wins, although there is much to like about the tone new head coach Greg Henington is trying to establish. Grade: B

BERNALILLO (0-5): Oh boy. The drop from 5A to 4A isn’t helping the Spartans at all, as they’ve been outscored 194-19 and are the only winless team in 4A. All Professor Y. can think to say is to tell Bernalillo to keep fighting the good fight. Grade: D-minus

CIBOLA (1-4): The Cougars have largely been a hot mess, though Professor Y’s alma mater managed a stirring come-from-behind win over Sandia on Friday. Defense has been decent; offense decimated with injuries. A supertough second-half slate awaits. Grade: C-minus

CLEVELAND (5-0): The Storm have weathered a wee bit of adversity — by its standards, not by anyone else’s — and have emerged unscathed so far, and against a very stout group of opponents. QB Angelo Trujillo is developing nicely, and this program continues to demonstrate enormous talent and depth. Grade: A-minus

DEL NORTE (0-3-1): The Knights understandably are peeved that Mother Nature keeps flashing those lightning bolts and interrupting their business affairs. Some things to like here — namely newly svelte RB Avery See, who dropped 40 pounds in the offseason — but the Knights need some bandaging. Grade: D-plus

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ELDORADO (3-2): The burnt orange demonstrate great offensive potential. Defense is a work in progress, although larger issue is inability to finish games, evidence those two massive blown leads in the second halves against Las Cruces (17 points) and Mayfield (21) that could prove very costly come selection day. But … a team to watch in the second half, for sure. Grade: B-minus

HIGHLAND (0-3): The Hornets are one of seven teams in the metro who haven’t reached five games yet; Highland lost one completely to lightning. Defense remains a major liability for the Hive (with Volcano Vista, fresh off a 68-point showing, next), although they may yet win a game or two in district. Grade: D

HOPE CHRISTIAN (2-3): The Huskies have been erratic through five games, and that’s got to change, what with the quality of their district foes. Good skill-position athletes, but this team needs more of a sharp edge to it, methinks. Grade: C

LA CUEVA (3-2): This is definitely one of those under-the-radar groups to eyeball into November. Bears’ two losses (Cleveland, Centennial) are by a combined four points, although that Centennial loss is misleading since Bears were down big with a minute to go. But plenty to like with this team on both sides of the ball. Grade: B

LOS LUNAS (5-0): The Tigers passed their one major test of the first half — a lightning-shortened victory at Alamogordo — and O’maury Samuels is having a terrific season so far. QB Nick Gaerlan is proving to be one of 5A’s most undervalued passers. Grade: A

MANZANO (2-2): The Monarchs, with a backup quarterback for the rest of the season (although Jordan Byrd will play some QB, as he did Friday at Rio Rancho), are going to face some serious challenges, especially in their district. The defense is relatively sound, although it may have to be great in the second half. This grade would be higher had Manzano not squandered that road game at Centennial. Grade: B-minus

MENAUL (1-3): Panthers have been laboring pretty badly since that opening-day victory against Cloudcroft. Menaul has been shut out two straight games, which is pretty hard to do at the 8-Man level. Grade: C-minus

MORIARTY (5-0): The Pintos had a 10-win season last year in 5A, and are cruising along very well now that they’re in 4A. Given the volume and talent of the players Moriarty graduated, this is an excellent first half, even against their cushy (so far) schedule. Kudos all around, especially to a stellar defense that has yielded only 15 points. Grade: A-minus

RIO GRANDE (0-4): The harsh truth is, the Ravens just seem unable to be competitive at a 6A level in this sport. There aren’t enough athletes playing football, which is too bad, because Rio Grande has proven it can win when it has athletes. Only 18 points for the Ravens in four games. Grade: D-minus

RIO RANCHO (5-0): For the second time in three years, the Rams stand out front as our class valedictorian. Yeah, maybe a few too many penalties here and there, and a passing game that could use polishing, but that is nitpicking. With this angry, bone-crunching defense — Rio Rancho’s first-team defense has surrendered only four touchdowns in five games — the Rams are New Mexico’s most complete football team at the midway point. Grade: A

SANDIA (2-2): My first look at the Matadors will be Friday against Rio Rancho. Sandia, coming off a disheartening loss to previously winless Cibola after blowing a double-digit lead, has RB issues, now that the primary back, Ky’Dae Jones, is out. Grade: C

ST. PIUS (4-1): Professor Y. is a major fan of the FC’s (can’t divulge what this means, sorry) and I won’t penalize the Sartans too harshly for that road loss in Alamogordo. St. Pius has feasted against four (far) supremely inferior opponents. This is true. But, if St. Pius and elite QB Drew Ortiz stay healthy and hungry, December is possible. Grade: B-plus

VALENCIA (1-3): The Jags had only scored six points all season before erupting for 45 in a win Friday over Santa Teresa. Coach Collin Justiss’ retool is progressing slowly; Valencia still has Belen, Los Lunas and St. Pius ahead this season. Grade: C-minus

VALLEY (0-5): Is it just me, or does somebody at APS have something against the Vikes? The nondistrict schedule coach Judge Chavez inherited is obscenely ridiculous for the smallest of the state’s 24 schools in 6A. And the Vikings have paid a heavy toll. As such, it is near impossible to rate this team’s overall ability. A whole lot of teams would be 0-5 against their schedule. Grade: C

VOLCANO VISTA (4-1): The Hawks have been extremely sloppy (and undisciplined) at times, even in wins, and yet they summoned a tremendous all-around performance in Week 4 against Mayfield. That team can make noise in the second half, and like Los Lunas’ Gaerlan, VV QB Dillon Gassoway is flying under the radar. Grade: B

WEST MESA (1-4): The Mustangs have dropped four in a row, but I’m not inclined to look disapprovingly at West Mesa given the quality of those four opponents (combined record of those four: 16-4). No reason to believe the ponies can’t summon a strong second half and take control of District 4-6A. Grade: C-plus

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