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Santa Fe High football moves to independent status

 

After three years of being beaten up by many of the state’s prep football behemoths, the Santa Fe Demons are tapping out. For now.

The school’s football program has been granted permission to be independent for the 2017 season, and will leave District 2-6A for an indefinite period.

“They just felt it was best for their program at the moment,” New Mexico Activities Association associate director Dusty Young said.

Santa Fe Public Schools athletic director Sara Baca said the last three seasons have been punishing for the program.

“We just felt at this time that we needed to make some changes and find some success and positivity in the program,” she said.

Santa Fe High was down to about 35 players in grades 9-12 by the end of last season, Baca said. The JV team was unable to complete the season, and there was no freshman squad. Often, Baca said, the Demons were having to send freshmen and sophomores up against larger and more experienced teams.

“We felt we needed to generate some momentum and some success and encourage the kids to come out and play and increase our numbers,” Baca said. She hopes the school can replenish the athlete pool to about 100 within a couple of years.

The Demons will be independent for 2017 and perhaps also for the following two-year scheduling block, which encompasses the 2018 and 2019 seasons. That is, unless the Demons gain a large number of athletes quickly.

Young said any school can gain football independence simply by requesting it. The NMAA bylaws, he said, are straightforward.

“We have to look at the safety of the kids, first and foremost,” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said.

Santa Fe and Deming were new Class 6A programs before the 2014 season.

The Demons qualified for the 2013 playoffs as a 5A program, but since joining 6A, it has been a disaster on the football field, glaringly so during their district slates.

Santa Fe competed in District 1-6A in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, the foursome of Rio Rancho, Cleveland, Cibola and Volcano Vista outscored the Demons 206-15. The following year, the margin was 219-8.

The Demons were moved to District 2 before the most recent two-year alignment block, but didn’t fare any better. They scored 13 points total in five league games, and yielded 270 to Eldorado, Clovis, Manzano, Sandia and La Cueva.

Santa Fe has lost 24 consecutive games, dating to early October of 2014. The Demons, by going independent, are ineligible to qualify for any postseason competition.

As the Demons dropped out in the middle of a two-year scheduling block, four Albuquerque Public Schools programs and Clovis must scramble to find a 10th opponent, which is problematic since all the upper-level programs they’d want to play already are committed to 10 games for next season.

That leaves open the strong possibility that La Cueva, Sandia, Manzano, Eldorado and Clovis may get saddled with unwanted nine-game schedules next season.

Santa Fe is keeping the same five nondistrict opponents it had last fall — St. Michael’s, Capital, Taos, Los Alamos and Goddard — and has added Roswell, Santa Teresa and Escalante.

“We’re trying to make it a meaningful, competitive schedule,” Baca said. Meanwhile, Santa Fe High is amid  hiring a head coach and may have one by the end of this week.

Santa Fe will not owe a financial penalty to Clovis or to APS for going independent.

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