Football Practice Begins July 31

by Staff Reporter / Jul 25, 2017 / comments

Football Practice Begins July 31

By George Morse Sports and Outdoors

In what may be its earliest start in recent memory, the 2017 high school football season gets under way July 31, the first official day of practice.

Although teams have participated all summer in workouts, lifting weights and playing in 7-on-7 passing competitions without pads, now is when it’s time to get serious.

With no new head coaches this season, local teams will be looking to refine their offenses and defenses to prepare for the all-important competition in their respective districts.

Escalante High School had the best season among local schools, rolling to a 9-2 record. The Lobos unofficially won the competition between local high schools, beating Espanola Valley High School, Pojoaque Valley High School and McCurdy Charter School last season. Head Coach Dusty Giles returns for his seventh season after returning to Escalante in 2011.

The Lobos will have to replace standout players at several key positions. Quarterback Waylon Hinds and running back Diego Aguilar graduated, as well as center/linebacker Joseph Martinez. Look for Esteban Archuleta, last year’s backup, to possibly be the starting quarterback. AJ Blea and Cody Russom will probably have bigger roles in the offense, as will returning wide receiver and favorite target Anthony Martinez. The Lobos will have to rebuild their offensive and defensive lines.

Escalante has won three state championships since 2012 and has a tradition of fielding quality teams. This season will be a challenge for Coach Giles to maintain the tradition of excellence that the Lobos have established.

McCurdy Charter School had its best season since 2012 last year, qualifying for the Class 3A state football playoffs and finishing with a 6-6 record. The Bobcats won a state playoff game in the Class 3A opening round, their first postseason win in four years.

McCurdy faces a major rebuilding job, having to replace quarterback Andres Martinez, running back Marcos Gonzales, receiver Josh Waters and running back/linebacker Lucas Samora. All graduated. Wide receiver Gabriel Huerta has transferred to Los Alamos High School. Ernesto Martinez will likely take over at quarterback.  The line may be McCurdy’s strength, anchored by returning starter Ace Gabrentina. Head Coach Ron Gallegos returns for his third season.

Pojoaque Valley got off to a good start last season, breaking a long losing streak with a triple-overtime road win over Hot Springs High School and following up with a win over rival Espanola Valley High School. The Elks were 4-3 midway through the season, but lost their last three games by a combined score of 163-18 and finished 4-6.

Pojoaque will have to replace quarterback Daniel Rael, linemen Jonathan Chavez and Terrell Calabaza, linebacker Henry Roybal, receiver Andres Romero and wide receiver Israel Martinez. They compete in one of the toughest districts, if not the toughest, in Class 4A in the state. Head Coach Jorge Oropeza returns for his second season. The Elks will have a major rebuilding job ahead of them and a lot of new faces in key positions this season.

After having the best season in school history in 2015 with a 9-2 record and ranked fifth in the state, Espanola Valley High School came back to earth with a 1-9 record last season. The Sundevils were gutted by graduation last season and had to adjust to a new system under Head Coach Jesus Maes, who was a late hire. Espanola showed signs of life and started to come together late last season. The Sundevils should to be stronger this year.  Espanola competes in the weakest district in Class 5A, so a chance at the playoffs is not out of the question if the Sundevils can win the district championship.

With a chance to absorb Coach Maes’ system over the summer, the Sundevils will likely be more cohesive on offense and defense. DeAndre Curtis emerged as a running back late last season and most of the Sundevils’ linemen return. Espanola opens the season with three home games against schools from lower classes, then has three tough Class 5A road games before starting district play.

In the coming weeks, the Valley Daily Post will be visiting these schools to preview the upcoming season. The opening games of the season begin Aug. 25, with Espanola taking on Class 3A Clayton High School and Pojoaque Valley hosting Los Alamos High School.