Estancia quarterback Josh Calhoon is enjoying about as much success as a senior can have on a team with a losing record.
Calhoon, who runs with the ball more than he throws it, has tallied more yards than any running back in New Mexico.
“Josh has been productive against everybody we’ve played,” Bears head coach Stewart Burnett said.
Estancia’s young and unsteady defense is one of the main reasons the Bears have a 2-4 record with No. 2 Santa Rosa up next.
But despite the Bears’ struggles, Calhoon is having a breakout year.
“He’s a huge bright spot,” Burnett said.
Last year as a running back, Calhoon finished the season with almost 1,400 yards, but there’s a good bet he’ll surpass that total in Estancia’s matchup at Santa Rosa.
In six games Calhoon has carried the ball 140 times and piled up 1,356 yards rushing, the most in the state in any class. He has scored 15 touchdowns rushing and is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry and 226.5 yards per game.
Maxpreps has Calhoon ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing.
“Right now, Josh’s season is the silver lining,” Burnett said.
Calhoon has exceeded 200 yards rushing in all but one game this season. In the only game he didn’t top 200 yards on the ground he still ran for 171. He racked up 255 yards on just six carries in Estancia’s Week 5 blowout over Hagerman, thanks in part to a scorching 92-yard touchdown run on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage. In Week 6, Calhoon carried the ball 30 times for a season-high 273 yards in a 55-34 loss to Class 3A Hatch Valley.
As a quarterback, a position he never started before this season, Calhoon has completed 21 of his 31 passes and thrown for three touchdowns.
“He’s a freak, man, he’s a workhorse, he just goes and goes,” Estancia assistant coach Eric Lucero said. “He’s sweet, he’s our Hershey’s Kiss, without him we’d be a little sour.”
When he’s not carrying the football, Calhoon lines up as a safety on defense.
“He’s a really good open-field tackler,” Burnett said.
As much as he loves playing offense, Calhoon said he enjoys stopping his opponents.
“You get the chance to take their opportunities away, go down low on the legs, be an ankle-biter,” Calhoon said.
Calhoon is not your typical burly football player. He said he’s “about 5-foot-10-ish, if I don’t slouch,” and weighs around 145.
Burnett said Calhoon “works incredibly hard and has a ton of heart.”
And when Calhoon gets his hands on the football, he finds a seam and goes like the Energizer Bunny.
“It’s instinctual,” he said. “Once I get to that hole, I try to tell myself, ‘Just hold onto the ball, drive your knees, don’t stop,’ and then it’s a blur, you’re just running.”
Much of the time, the holes Calhoon alluded to are created by offensive linemen like Edward Lucero.
“My job is to make the hole, get the kickout. If I don’t do my job, then Josh isn’t anything,” Lucero said with a chuckle.
Calhoon said his goal is to get to 2,000 yards rushing. If he achieves his 2,000-yard target, he’ll be the first Bears player to reach that milestone since Andrew Lujan did it in 2019.
“I was in eighth grade, I looked up to him in so many ways, I picked my number (21) because of him,” Calhoon said of Lujan. “That’s been my goal since last year, to crack 2,000.”
After Santa Rosa, the Bears will move on to their district schedule which includes always-tough Tularosa.
With a defense that has been Estancia’s Achilles’ heel all season, the team is looking at the prospect of finishing with a losing record for the first time since the Covid-postponed spring season of 2021.
Burnett said it’s unusual to have the offensive production that Calhoon is helping to generate while the Bears are not doing well as a team.
“It’s a weird spot to be in,” Burnett said.
Calhoon said he hopes the team can get to the playoffs, maybe even beat Tularosa and win the district, but he doesn’t want to dwell on what the Bears’ record might be.
“We have some monster teams coming up, so let’s prepare,” he said. “Let’s get ready, and whatever happens, we’ll play with a heart of fire and a heart of passion, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll know we did our best.”