By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
During the past three seasons, Derek Rivera has been a master of many positions for the St. Pius Sartans.
And, in part, because of his versatility, skill set and attitude, this week’s Galles Chevrolet Metro Player of the Week has the Sartans in position to win the District 2/5 (Class 4A) championship.
St, Pius (6-3, 4-0) plays host to Grants (8-1, 3-1) on Thursday night at Milne Stadium with that district title on the line.
“That’s been the goal all season,” says St. Pius coach Dave Montoya. “The kids came up short last year, and they don’t want to have that feeling again. Derek has been a big part of the success this year. He’s a smart kid and a big sports fan, and he really understands how to play so many positions on the field.”
As a freshman in 2016, Rivera was a backup quarterback and starting strong safety for the Sartans during their state championship season.
In the fall of 2017, Rivera and Diego Pavila – both sophomores – battled for the starting quarterback spot. Pavia won out and had a huge season.
Rivera, meanwhile, was a two-way standout for St. Pius. On offense, he was a running back. On defense, he started the season as outside linebacker, but was moved to strong safety after the Sartans suffered injuries.
But in June, Pavila transferred to Volcano Vista – and that moved Rivera back behind center.
“I’ll just play wherever I can help the team the most, and wherever I get to play,” Rivera told Enchantment Sports. “But I do love playing quarterback. Every since I was young, that’s where I played.”
This season, Rivera hasn’t missed a beat in leading the Sartans to the No. 1 ranking in Class 4A. On Friday (Oct. 26) he had a huge night in the Sartans’ 49-0 romp at Espanola Valley – although it, literally, wasn’t noticed by many.
“It was very strange, I had never played in anything like that,” Rivera said.
Because of a brawl between Espanola Valley and Bernalillo two weeks earlier, which involved players and fans, the New Mexico Activities Association and EVHS officials agreed to play the game against St. Pius with no Sundevils fans in attendance, as a sanction.
“It definitely didn’t feel like a usual game, especially after coming off of the win against Taos,” Rivera said of the Sartans’ 27-0 win against the previously unbeaten Tigers a week earlier. “That was such a big game and there was so much excitement.”
Despite the sluggish atmosphere last week, Rivera was on top of his game. He threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more – and picked up Galles Chevrolet Player of the Week honors.
“He definitely deserves it,” Montoya said. “He’s a good kid, and he’s really a fun kid to coach.”
The Metro Player of the Week feature is chosen by Enchantment Sports with the assistance of ProView Networks, and sponsored by Galles Chevrolet and Totally Dazzling. Each week, we will feature a top-notch athlete from the area.
To learn more about the Galles Metro Player of the Week, click here.
To make a nomination, email EnchantmentSportsNM@gmail.com.