MaxPreps 2013 New Mexico Preseason Fab 5 presented by the Army National Guard
1. Rio RanchoHead coach:
David Howes2012 finish:
9-2, lost to Volcano Vista in the Class 5A quarterfinalsTeam preview
The Rams have never won a state championship, but they appear to be the favorite in the ultra-competitive large school 5A division entering the 2013 season. With 13 returning starters back from a team that lost just two games last season by a combined total of five points, coach David Howes' team can also boast a 9-0 JV team moving up. Rio Rancho is simply loaded on offense, returning one of the best quarterbacks in the state in junior Easton Bruere
(3,046 yards, 29 touchdowns), a deep running backs corps led by Jordan Lara
, and a punishing offensive line led by returning starters Dustin Hansen
and Colby Stinson
. Bruere has two of his top targets back in wide receivers Tristen Foley
and K.J. Jiggetts
. The Rams have been buoyed by the physical play of newcomer Ikaika Waters
, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior fullback/defensive end.
"Ikaika is going to be punishing players, whether he's blocking or tackling somebody," Howes said. "He's that physical."
Waters and fellow defensive end Travis Parnell
, who has given a verbal commitment to New Mexico State, along with nose guard Sergio Mendoza
, form a stout defensive line.
"We're every bit as good or better from last year's team, not only from an athletic standpoint, but a maturity standpoint," Howes said. "We're not as deep as we were two years ago, but if we can stay healthy, we definitely have the horses to be fighting for it at the end."See the Top 15 New Mexico football dynasties2. Las CrucesHead coach:
Jim Miller2012 finish:
11-1, won 5A state championshipTeam preview
The Bulldawgs closed out the 2012 season by winning nine straight games, including a thrilling 35-28 victory over Sandia in the 5A state title contest. Since taking over the program 16 years ago, coach Jim Miller is a perfect 5-0 in state championship games. Las Cruces lost a number of impact players from last year's team, but as history has shown, the Bulldawgs don't rebuild — they simply reload. Las Cruces returns eight starters on defense, including 6-1, 220-pound linebacker Sam Denmark
, who has an offer from New Mexico State. Denmark, along with 6-2, 265-pound offensive lineman Carlos Campos
, are two of the elite players at their position, and they'll need to be that much better if the Bulldawgs are to repeat as state champs.
Las Cruces also returns dynamic running backs J.J. Granados
and Austin Salas
. Miller's son, Kameron
, a sophomore, takes over the starting QB position from the graduated Jonathan Joy, an All-State selection. Even though the Bulldawgs graduated a number of key players, opposing coaches feel they'll be there at the end.
"They're so big and athletic, and from what I understand their skill position players are ridiculous," Rio Rancho coach David Howes said.See last season's New Mexico football playoff brackets3. Cleveland (Rio Rancho)Head coach:
Heath Ridenour2012 finish:
6-5, lost to Eldorado in the first round of the 5A playoffsTeam preview
Since 2009 — when the school first fielded a varsity program — Cleveland has been a perennial force in the 5A class, winning a pair of District 5A-1 titles to go along with a state championship in 2011. After bowing out of the opening round of the playoffs last season, look for Cleveland to make another deep postseason run this year. The Storm return 12 starters, none more important than QB Kian Homme
, a 6-6, 195-pound gunslinger who can put the ball on a dime and pick apart defenses with brutal efficiency.
Two-way standout Sterling Napier
, a 6-5, 235-pound tight end/outside linebacker, has verbally committed to UTEP and led the team in receptions last year. Andre LiRosi
, a 5-5, 150-pound wide receiver/cornerback, has big-time playmaking ability. Cleveland's biggest strength lies in its linebacking corps, with Mackay Dunlap
and Josh Hinman
leading the way. Desmond Branch
, a 6-5, 245-pound Division I prospect, anchors both the offensive and defensive line.
"We have high expectations, but then again, we have high expectations every year," Ridenour said. "That's just the standard we hold ourselves to."See last season's final New Mexico football rankings, presented by the Army National Guard
4. Sandia (Albuquerque)Head coach:
Kevin Barker2012 finish:
9-4, lost to Las Cruces in 5A state finalTeam preview
After suffering a heartbreaking 35-28 loss to Las Cruces in last year's state final, the Matadors return a talented roster to try and finish the deal this season. In 6-3, 245-pound defensive end-tight end Camrron Bean
— the senior has six Division I offers — Sandia has the most recruited prospect in New Mexico. Bean runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, comes off his stance with uncanny explosiveness and possesses great hands and blocks effectively.
But it's not just about the dynamic Bean. The Sandia defense should give opponents nightmares, with Bean and stout defensive tackles Julian Pena
and second team All-State selection Jeremiah Thompson
anchoring the line. The Sandia offense figures to be a work in progress, as it lost all of its players at the skill positions but did return four of five starters from the offensive line.
"Our community has always been behind us, and after last year's loss in the state title game, they're even more passionate," Barker said. "We have a lot of talented guys who haven't been the go-to guys, so we'll see how they respond. Our weakness is depth, so staying healthy will be that much more important for us."See every New Mexico FBS football signee from 2013 National Signing Day5. Mayfield (Las Cruces)Head coach:
Michael Bradley2012 finish:
7-5, lost to Sandia in the 5A state quarterfinalsTeam preview
Since 2001, the Trojans have been the best program in New Mexico — bar none. In that span, Mayfield has amassed a 4-5 record in 5A state championship games — never going more than two years between championship appearances. If the Trojans are to extend that remarkable streak, they'll have to reach the state title contest again this year. Mayfield returns plenty of star power in junior quarterback Kavika Johnson
, who is one of the best pure passers in the state. Able to beat teams with his arm and feet, Johnson promises to put up some huge numbers. He'll have plenty of support in the backfield in running back David Stookey
, a 5-8, 160-pounder who has great vision and instincts. Trojans coach Michael Bradley is particularly high on three-year starting linebacker Joah Franzoy
, who makes all the plays and possesses great leadership ability.
Although Mayfield has plenty of playmakers, its offensive line is a question mark, with only one returning starter in 6-4, 265-pound Raymond Fierro
. Dominic Carrasco
is the team's top returning defensive lineman, while Joseph Arguello
teams with Franzoy and Stookey to form one of the best linebacker corps Mayfield has had in recent memory, Bradley said. The Trojans have a dynamic safety duo in Isaiah Lerman
, who had nine interceptions last year, and Philip Ehly
, a textbook tackler.
"We're really young on both lines, but if they come together, we'll be pretty good," Bradley said. "We have good size, good speed and it's a pretty good crew. I think we play the toughest schedule in the state, and we're ready to get back after it."Email Emanuel Lee at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EmanuelLee4.