Escalante Head Coach Dusty Giles watches his team scrimmage against St. Michael's Aug. 21 at Escalante. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Escalante Football Builds For A New Season
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
With back-to-back Class 2A state championships under their belt, Escalante High School has the proverbial target on their backs and a legacy to live up to. Head Coach Dusty Giles, who enters his sixth year in his second stint at Escalante, isn’t going to do anything different this season that he hasn’t done in the past.
“You don’t necessarily look at it as added pressure, just continue with what been doing for the last 15 years,” Coach Giles said. “Giving your best effort we can to putting your best team on the field. Some of my better coaching jobs were teams that barely got into the playoffs.”
For Coach Giles, it all boils down to basics.
“Football is about blocking and tackling,” he said. “If you do those, you’re going to have success.”
The Lobos have relied on an explosive running attack the last two seasons led by quarterback Dominic Montano, who led the state in all classes in yards gained rushing and touchdowns scored. Leading the way for Montano was a big offensive line. Montano has graduated as have big linemen like 270-pound Feliciano Talamante and 249-pound Estevan Atencio.
“We’ve never been big but we usually had three or four guys with good size,” Giles said. “Four out of five of our linemen are brand new. That’s one of the harder things to develop. We’re going to put a lot of time and effort into that unit.”
This season the Lobos will have just one returning starter (senior center Joseph Martinez) on the line. Martinez weighs in at less than 150 pounds. Left tackle Randy Ferrel is just under 160 pounds, while right guard Devon Abeyta is less than 150 pounds. The only size will be at right tackle with 183-pound Johnny Samora and right guard Sebastian Cordova at 216 pounds.
“They’re very coachable and very attentive,” Coach Giles said. “We put it on that unit that if they get the job done, we’re going to win ball games.”
The lack of size doesn’t concern Giles.
“You can’t worry about things you can’t change,” he said. “You’ve got enough to worry about. We’ll have some of the quickest linemen. We need to play to our strengths and work on execution.”
Escalante quarterback Tristan Martinez tries to pull away from a St. Michael’s defender at a scrimmage on Aug. 21. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
Senior Tristan Martinez takes over at quarterback. A key player at wide receiver and defensive back since he started as a freshman, Martinez has the qualities that Coach Giles looks for in a quarterback.
“His work ethic,” Coach Giles said. “We push our quarterback to be one of the strongest guys on the team. It reduces injuries. When our quarterback is carrying the ball as much as they do in our offense, you do everything you can to get their body prepared.”
The other quality is leadership.
“That’s a big part of being quarterback,” Coach Giles said. “When the chips are down you’ve got to have someone who can hold things together.”
Martinez showed his toughness in a scrimmage against St. Michael’s High School Aug. 20 at Escalante. He took a hard shot square in the chest that had him staying down on one knee for several moments. He came back to throw a long pass to wide receiver Waylon Hinds to put the Lobos in scoring position.
“I just love being in that position and it comes with the game,” Martinez said. “We all have heart and we’re going to do what we gotta do.”
Hinds had caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Martinez earlier in the scrimmage against St. Michael’s. Catching passes is not the most important skill that Escalante’s wide receivers need to have.
“They all have to block,” Coach Giles said. “When you run the ball like we do, you have to have everybody blocking. It doesn’t matter how fast they are if they can’t do the dirty work.”
Diego Aguilar will be the running back in Escalante’s option offense. He exemplifies the toughness of the Lobos. The 150-pound Aguilar lines up at defensive tackle for the Lobos , where he often faces players that outweigh him by 100 pounds.
“We’re quicker and faster,” Aguilar said.
Although the Lobos’ explosive offense draws the most headlines and has set the most records, Escalante held their opponents to under 10 points a game last season.
“We start every practice with defense first,” Coach Giles said. “We pride ourselves on it.”
St. Michael’s, a perennial powerhouse in Class 4A, gave the Class 2A Lobos a look at what they may face this season when they take on bigger teams like Class 5A Espanola Valley High School and Class 4A Pojoaque Valley High School. Class 5A Albuquerque Academy, who dealt the Lobos their only loss 41-20 last season when the Lobos went 11-1, is also on the schedule.
“We’re excited to face those teams,” Hinds said. “It’s a new challenge and we’re going to hit’m head on, as usual.”
Coach Giles welcomes the challenge.
“At our level (there are only seven Class 2A teams in the state) you have to play up to fill your schedule,” Coach Giles said. “You deal with it. You line up and play. They get 11 (players), you get 11.”
Escalante quarterback Tristan Martinez drops back to pass. Photo by George Morse for the Valley Daily Post
The recent scrimmage, where Escalante also faced Class 3A Raton High School, showed Coach Giles that his team will be able to compete against those bigger schools.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “I thought we did a pretty decent job. Our quickness showed at the scrimmage. I’m pleased where we’re at right now.”
The Lobos open their season Friday against Class 3A Tucumcari High School in Tierra Amarilla.