Teams in calm before ugly storm
Bill Moon saw no coincidence when he looked at the regular-season football schedule for all four District 2-5A teams this year.
Not one of them will set foot on a field Friday, and Moon saw it as a well-coordinated plan by all of them — Santa Fe High, Los Alamos, Albuquerque Del Norte and his very own Capital Jaguars.
“We’re doing what everybody else is doing,” said Moon, the seventh-year Capital head coach. “This is a time to heal and catch your breath.”
There is no better time to do it, because the district season begins the following week. Given how the first seven weeks have gone for the district teams (they are a combined 8-19-1 on the season), it is apparent that the district will get just one team into the Class 5A playoffs in November. Because of their overall performances, though, each team can walk onto the field believing it has a chance at winning the 2-5A title.
“Los Alamos is a big, physical team, and their quarterback [Dylan Irish] is outstanding,” Santa Fe High head coach Andrew Martinez said. “Del Norte has a bunch of speed on the edge and their quarterback [Christian Mejia] is one of the best in the state. … And I know Capital is a little banged up, but I really believe that this is what Bill Moon prepares for. I fully believe that if anyone takes Capital lightly, they’re going to lose the ball game.”
Moon, though, feels the district has gotten an undeserved reputation of being perhaps the worst district in 5A.
He points to Capital’s nondistrict schedule, in which the Jaguars played three teams ranked in the Top 5 in Class 4A (Taos, Lovington and Portales, according to MaxPreps.com’s Freeman rankings) and St. Michael’s squad that is considered a favorite in 3A.
Los Alamos played the No. 1 ranked teams in 4A (Taos) and 3A (Albuquerque Hope Christian) and the No. 2 team in 4A in Bloomfield. Del Norte played a mostly Albuquerque-centric schedule and took on the No. 3 (Eldorado) and No. 6 (Volcano Vista) teams in 6A.
“I don’t think it’s correct that the attitude in the state is that, ‘Well, there are only four teams in that district and look at their win-loss record, so they’re only going to take one team,’ ” Moon said.
Trouble is, the district’s signature win is Los Alamos’ 28-20 win over Bloomfield, which it followed with a sluggish 7-0 win over a 2-4 Gallup team. The Knights lost 28-27 to Albuquerque High, which is playing as an independent team, while Jaguars lost 38-19 to a Moriarty team the Demons almost beat 20-12 in Week 2.
It should be noted, though, that Capital played without starting quarterback Manuel Vargas and running back Luke Padilla against the Pintos because of injuries. The Hilltoppers have been without Irish for parts of several games due to a variety of injuries.
Martinez said the grind of the season often leads to missing key players at key times. He added that preparing for the next game often comes at the expense of working on little things that teams focus on through preseason.
“It’s a nice to step back and re-evaluate things,” Martinez said. “Now is the time to do it, without having to game plan and crunching everything in. And then you go back to the basic fundamentals that you kinda lose throughout the year. You don’t have as much individual time for positions and group time for positions. For us, we want to go back over those fundamentals.”
Moon said his coaching staff focused on trying to slow the game down for his younger players. That meant reviewing basic fronts and offensive formations the Jaguars will see so that they are more familiar with them once the game begins.
“One of the characteristics of a senior is that the game is so much slower for him than a freshman because he’s seen it,” Moon said. “It’s like riding a bike the first time. You’re going to make mistakes and get some scrapes, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.”
Capital also is trying to get sophomores Julian Sanchez and Isaac Gonzales up to speed at quarterback as they try to replace Vargas. Moon said the team usually goes with the hot hand at the moment, but both quarterbacks have unique talents.
“If I could get both of them into one quarterback and we would quit having injuries, we’d have a pretty solid quarterback,” Moon said.
As for the Demons, Martinez said he has been happy with the progression freshman Luc Jaramillo is making at quarterback and how senior running back Sammy Martinez has adapted to starting after having spent the past four years focusing mainly on the wrestling mat.
“I’ve been thrilled with the way Luc’s played,” Martinez said. “To be at that position at that age and to play the way he’s played, has been fun to watch. We’re correcting things with him every day and showing him some film. That’s been the biggest tool — him seeing himself on film.”
Martinez hopes the game film on Jaramillo and the Demons looks better over the next few weeks.
He’s not the only coach who hopes his team looks better, too.