Thursday, June 27, 2013

Trojans have experience, talent to make noise as District 3-5A football contenders

(Las Cruces High running back J.J. Granados returns to the Bulldawgs backfield after a standout 2012 season/Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Journal)

With high school football practices just over a month away, we take a look at our local teams and what to expect during the 2013 season.

A few cliff notes: While Las Cruces High and Mayfield figure to be solid to strong once again, there’s no clear-cut state championship favorite coming from the area during preseason, something that’s been commonplace in years past. And, while the Bulldawgs did in fact take home the state trophy last year, they figure to be in slight rebuilding mode in 2013 (at least by their standards, that is).

With that, we make some early team prognostications for the local prep football landscape, with the new year not far away:

Las Cruces High
The Bulldawgs are still a good football team. But as good as last year’s state-championship squad? Consider: Not only did LCHS lose a great quarterback in Jonathan Joy, but the Bulldawgs must replace big pieces along an offensive line that simply manhandled opposing teams in 2012. With that being said, the Bulldawgs do return talent at the skill positions and aren’t just going to fall off the map. Perhaps the biggest key for the team will be sophomore quarterback Kameron Miller. Simply put, if he plays well, Las Cruces High should be right there. It’s tough imagining this group being as explosive as it was a season ago. But a quality outfit should still be in the offering in 2013.

This could very well be the Trojans year in District 3-5A. Mayfield returns a good group of underclassmen from a season ago, as well as junior quarterback Kavika Johnson, who was a super player and athlete for the team in 2012. Last year the Trojans placed second in district behind eventual Class 5A state champion LCHS. They finished the year 7-4, with a team that wasn’t quite up to Trojans standards in terms of experience or talent. Traditionally, Mayfield always finds itself in the mix, and has the capabilities this year to compete for the top spot in league play.

On the surface at least, it appears Oñate still has a long way to go. Third-year head coach Caleb Hull continues to try and move this ship forward. And while the consensus was the team was more competitive last year, the stretch drive of the season didn’t go well: While district losses to Las Cruces High and Mayfield were acceptable, falling to district foes Gadsden and Alamogordo to close out the year simply hurt. A state playoff appearance would at least supply positive momentum for the program. But that certainly isn’t a guaranteed outcome in 2013.

Head coach Roy Gerela did a superb job last season, guiding Gadsden to a respectable 5-5 record. With that comes an intriguing storyline: Where will the Panthers go now? What Gerela did was simple in theory, yet harder to execute: He understands the players and community, while providing a sense of excitement and commitment to the program. Unless the team takes another massive step forward — a similar one to last season — they should be playing for third place in district once again, competing with the likes of Oñate and Alamogordo. But, with that, perhaps a state playoff appearance is attainable in 2013, which would be a standout achievement in itself.

The Hawks were an exciting team that went 5-5 in their inaugural season on the football field under offensive-minded head coach Aaron Ocampo. This year they return their quarterback Quevin Redding, and similar offensive personnel at the skill positions. The Hawks also play a familiar schedule in 2013 — no junior varsity teams dot the docket, although the program remains in District 3-4A and face a handful of Class 2A and 3A teams in pre-district play. All tolled, and Centennial should have another relatively successful year, with the possibility of further improvement as a realistic goal.

Mesilla Valley Christian
Head coach Mike Draper continues to try to put his stamp on this program after taking over for Charles Gleghorn prior to last season. The SonBlazers took a step back last year after winning a Class A state championship in 2011. But perhaps if Draper can continue to put his stamp on the SonBlazers, the team can build around quarterback Tristan Franzoy and running back Renee Medina.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

No comments: