By Mark Smith
Editor in Chief
The task ahead is daunting, to be sure.
But no matter how Valley High fares on Friday (Nov. 16) at No. 1 Roswell, nothing can take away the satisfaction and pride the Vikings gave the North Valley last week.
Valley, the eighth seed in the 12-team Class 5A playoffs, ripped ninth-seeded Santa Teresa 28-12 in the first round at Milne Stadium. It was the school’s first playoff win since 2013.
“It was a good win for a lot of people in the community. It’s a very tight-knit community,” Valley football coach Judge Chavez said. “I grew up down here and I still live here — just three houses from my mom. Everyone knows each other.
“Of course, that can work either way as coach,” Chavez said with a chuckle. “I hear a lot of opinions. But this community just has so much pride, that it’s great.”
Chavez is in his third year as Valley’s head coach. He said he was ready to retire a few years back after head coaching runs at Highland (11 seasons) and Cibola (7 seasons).
“After Cibola, I thought I was done,” Chavez said. “This is the only job I would come back to be a coach. I live two or three minutes away from the school.
“Whenever this one’s done, I’m done. ”
Chavez said nearly his entire staff graduated from Valley.
Chavez’s roots are truly deep in the area. He could still probably throw a deep ball from the Vikings’ practice field across Valley Pool Road to the playground/field at Griegos Elementary School, where he attended as a youngster.
“But I’d really have to warm up first,” he says.
Chavez said he always wanted to play for Valley as a youngster, and, in a way, the Vikings’ victory last week helped him reach a goal from his youth.
“When I was a kid, my dream was to turn the program around at Valley (as a player) and get in the playoffs,” he said. “It never happened when I was here. As a coach, when we won the other night, it was pretty satisfying — and we’re not done.”
While last week gave the community a reason to celebrate, it has also been hit hard by the recent death of former Valley three-sports superstar Jim Coleman. He passed away in late October at age 47, from an apparent massive coronary. His brother, Joe Coleman, is the boys basketball coach and athletic director at Valley.
“It really hit the community hard,” Chavez said. “The community just really comes together in times like that.
“It’s been really tough. All those kids who were pallbearers, I coached all those kids. Everybody knows everybody down here, and stay real close.”
Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for four decades, and is one of the New Mexico’s most decorated sports journalists in history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.