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2021 looks like the Year of the Horsemen | Sports

2021 looks like the Year of the Horsemen | Sports

Can you believe it’s August, and we’re talking about high school football?

As we continue to unwind from our pandemic year, it feels like we should champion every milepost along the way. And seeing football players, unmasked, on football fields felt as normal as normal can be now (alas, we won’t be saying that for the indoor sports, but that’s for another day).

So, as we prepare for an actual football season for the first time in two years, it’s time to throw some red meat for everyone to feast upon, with games less than three weeks away (yeah, last year’s “spring” season was the equivalent of my driver’s license saying I’m 5-foot-3. They’re both official, but we all know the truth).

It’s the Year of the Horsemen. Way to step out on a limb, but the truth must be told. So, here is some more truth: It’s been nine years since St. Michael’s won a state title. It’s also been nine years since it played for a state title. That is the longest drought of either under head coach Joey Fernandez. This year’s squad is senior-loaded (15 in all) with Lucas Coriz, a quarterback who has finally matured to take advantage of the talent he possesses, as well as the team around him. If it feels like a “must win” year for the Horsemen, that’s because it is.

Santa Fe High flirts with .500. The good news for Demons fans is they might see the school’s best team over the past decade. But a nondistrict schedule doesn’t exactly get Santa Fe High ready for the rigorous District 2/5-6A slate. There are the traditional games between St. Michael’s and Capital, but Class 4A Moriarty and 3A Robertson are among the tune-ups for the Sept. 18 district opener against Albuquerque Eldorado.

The Demons can win all four nondistrict games, but their toughest challenge might be the Sept. 3 game against St. Michael’s — a team they haven’t beaten in 13 years. They should be 3-1 heading into district play, but their best bets for wins after that are against Manzano and Albuquerque High in the Oct. 22 season finale. Anything more, and Santa Fe High head coach Andrew Martinez might have to throw his hat in the ring for mayor.

Capital begins the rebuilding project again. Here’s a fun fact: Of the six previous Jaguars head coach, all but one of them finished their first year with a 1-9 record. The other went 2-8. Could this be what awaits new head coach Joaquin Garcia for his first year? The short answer is no. The longer one is that he inherits a program piloted under Bill Moon that was competitive, if not successful over the past seven seasons. Add to that Garcia’s presence on the Capital staff over the past two years.

The Jaguars are clearly in a rebuild after losing one of their most talented senior classes in recent memory, but the cupboard is hardly empty. What Garcia will encounter is a group of young, inexperienced players learning a new system. So, don’t expect a 1-9 season, but count it a successful start if Capital hits the .500 mark.

Santa Fe Indian School is two years away from being competitive. Speaking of Moon, there might not be a greater challenge than taking over a program that last laced up the pads in 2019 and competes in the toughest district in Class 3A.

The growing pains will be great for Moon and the Braves, but SFIS officials did them a solid with a nondistrict schedule that includes two teams that also did not play last year (Laguna Acoma and McCurdy) and another that scored a grand total of six points in the spring (Española Valley). SFIS should get a win or two — heck, maybe three — before entering 2-3A play. But then, look out.

Every team in the district can legitimately harbor hopes of reaching the playoffs. St. Michael’s and Las Vegas Robertson (another team that didn’t play last year) view themselves as perennial state title contenders. But the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. The Braves will have to pace themselves to catch up with the rest of 3A.

Robertson won’t miss a beat this year. Yeah, that’s right. A year off from the gridiron won’t hurt Robertson too badly. Don’t expect the Cardinals to play on the final Saturday of the season, but they will be right in the mix of things in 2-3A and in 3A overall. Head coach Leroy Gonzalez has lost plenty of talent over his 11-year tenure, and knows how to adjust to the personnel he has. Not even a year off from the sport will change that much, in part because of his meat-and-potatoes philosophy — a big heaping of defense, followed by a side of the ground game.

Robertson will be physical, and if it can run the ball at Gonzalez’s preferred three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust pace, it will win seven games.

And now that you’ve taken in your annual dish of football predictions, make room for dessert. Basketball season is just a little more than three months away.