With the New Mexico high school state football playoffs less than a month away, here are some thoughts on the season thus far.
The 5A favorite to win it all — and by a wide margin — is Las Cruces
(7-0), which has battered every opponent it has lined up against this season. The Bulldawgs' closest — and we're using the term loosely — was a 20-0 win over La Cueva (Albuquerque) on Sept. 27.
Plenty of credit goes to La Cueva for slowing down Las Cruces, which has scored over 30 points in all of its other games this season.
Las Cruces followed that shutout with a 54-0 pasting of Artesia and a 55-19 whipping of Onate (Las Cruces). The Bulldawgs are playing like a team intent on repeating as state champs, and right now no one is even close to approaching their level.
However, state championship trophies aren't handed out in mid-October, so it's worth noting that teams like Sandia (Albuquerque)
, Cleveland (Rio Rancho)
and Valley (Albuquerque)
are capable of perhaps knocking off Las Cruces come playoff time.
Cleveland (5-1) and Sandia (5-1), in particular, are two teams to watch out for because they feature two of the best defenses in the state. The teams played last week, and it was as good as advertised.
Sandia prevailed, 17-16, with the difference being a missed PAT from Cleveland. Sandia features arguably the most talented player in the state in Camrron Bean
, who wreaks havoc as a defensive end but has also emerged as a major weapon at quarterback.
Bean takes several snaps under center, and he's shown the ability to not only run but also complete throws in critical moments.
Against Cleveland, Bean threw a 16-yard touchdown pass — his only pass attempt of the game — and came up huge on defense in the latter stages, deflecting Kian Homme's third-down pass for an incompletion with the Storm at the Sandia 31-yard line and driving in for the potential winning score with less than two minutes remaining.
Cleveland has one of the state's best two-way linemen in Desmond Branch
, a senior offensive tackle and defensive end.
Meanwhile, Valley (6-0) owns quality wins over Cibola (Albuquerque)
and Manzano (Albuquerque)
, a pair of teams with 4-2 records. Valley also edged Eldorado (Albuquerque)
, which features one of the state's most recruited players in junior quarterback Zach Gentry
tailback Kamal Cass
, who broke the school's career rushing record in a 31-28 win over Goddard (Roswell) on Oct. 4, has been on an absolute tear even with teams stacking eight to nine players in the box in what has been a futile attempt to stop him.
In the last three weeks — against quality teams in Rio Rancho and Goddard and a decent one in Artesia — Cass has rushed for 350, 331 and 201 yards, respectively. After a slow start, Clovis has come on in recent weeks, edging Goddard 31-28 before putting a 48-17 beatdown on Artesia.Record of the dubious sort
If Albuquerque loses its next three games — against Valley, Atrisco Heritage (Albuquerque) and West Mesa (Albuquerque) on Oct. 31 — it will total 38 consecutive losses, which would establish a new state record.
Santa Fe High holds the current record for most consecutive losses with 37, from 1991-94.