By Ed Nunez
For Enchantment Sports
Proview networks, play by play broadcaster
The state 5A scene has definitely seen some major realignments for the 2018 season, which could potentially shift some football power. In District 1, former 6A participant Highland joins Farmington, Miyamura and Piedra Vista. District 2 has Capital, Del Norte, Los Alamos and Santa Fe. District 3 has Chaparral, Deming, Santa Teresa and Silver, which is a class 4 school competing in a 5A district. District 4 has Alamogordo, perennial 5A power, Artesia, Roswell Goddard and Roswell. Finally, District 5 has Belen, Los Lunas, Valencia and newcomer Valley.
Let’s take a look at some of the teams in this class:
The Santa Fe Demons (coached by Andrew Martinez) graduated 17 seniors from last year’s team and are young. Seniors Coben Branch and junior Andres Rodriguez are the anchors of the offensive line. Junior Trent Jones returns as the starting tight end and defensively the Demons return starting linebacker sophomore Matthew Maestas and senior Jackson Carey. Coach Martinez has over 30 freshman out this year and feels they are an athletic group of young men.
Santa Teresa (coached by Shae Vierra) returns many players from last year’s 6-4 team. Izaiah Velazquez has moved from wide receiver to quarterback, and the offensive line is led by Alexander Ayon, who coach Vierra feels is the best center in the state. Defensively, Santa Teresa is led by safety Zion Brisby, linebacker, Jesus Sanchez and defensive end, Guillermo Maldonado.
The Belen Eagles finished 12-1 last season and lost to Artesia in the 5A championship game. Coached by Greg Henington, the Eagles did lose 20 seniors off of that group, but do return arguably the top running back in the state in Diego Casillas, who rushed for 2,679 yards and 33 touchdowns his junior year.
The Valley Vikings coached by Judge Chavez, drop into a classification where they feel they should have been a few years ago. It is an experienced group of 26 seniors, led on offense by wide receiver Jove Messenger and senior two-way lineman Dwayne Burton.
The Highland Hornets (coached by Phil Lovato) also dropped a class. The young Hornets lack depth, with only three seniors and a smattering of freshmen and sophomores. Key players for the Hornets are (NG/G) Carlos Orozco, who Lovato feels is the best Highland athlete on the team. Keep an eye also on sophomore quarterback Andres Ortega, who started seven games as a freshman.
The Del Norte Knights (coached by Bruce Binkley) feel that they have their best team in years. The Los Lunas Tigers return quarterback Nick Gaerlan and wide receiver Cody Vocu, a deadly offensive combination. Roswell had a deep playoff run last year before losing to Belen in the semifinals. Roswell Goddard looks to rebound after an off year, and the Farmington Scorpions also look to reload.
So what does all this shifting and realigning mean for the king of 5A football, the Artesia Bulldogs? With 30 state championships in their history, it’s not likely they are quaking in their boots. Artesia always plays a tough schedule that has it ready for a deep playoff run. Roswell, Belen, Valley, Piedra Vista, and Los Lunas will make things interesting throughout most of the 2018 football season, and they will have their moments. However, when the smoke clears after another hard fought battle, it should be the Artesia Bulldogs who are again the favorites to take the 2018 5A football championship.