Bears coach Stewart Burnett knew his seventh-seeded squad would have its hand full against No. 1 Texico.
Well, that didn’t exactly quite sum it up as Estancia lost in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs 50-0.
The Bears (4-7) could never get it going on either side of the ball and they hardly resembled the team that fell to the Wolverines 52-22 in the season’s opening week.
And while Estancia was scrambling to fill lineup spots, Texico was getting stronger, adding a couple of key players who missed that Week One game.
“Personnel-wise, we were in a rougher spot than we were in Week One,” Burnett said. “That came to fruition.”
It was the first time this season that the Bears were unable to move the ball offensively, which the coach attributed to the team’s extreme youth and significant lack of depth.
If there’s a bright side to the season, it is that the youngsters got to see plenty of playing time – even if it was more than Burnett was anticipating – and the team is only losing four seniors: top ball carriers Joshua Calhoon and Pablo Regalado, as well as key defenders Seth Dunlap and Edward Lucero.
“We’ve got a really good group of eighth graders that will be freshmen next year,” Burnett said. “We’ve got some pieces. We’re still going to be young. We’ll have four or five seniors next year and only two juniors so we’ll still be relying on a freshmen and sophomores next year. We’ll definitely going to be in a building phase next year and the next year after that, as well. I knew we were going to be hitting some rough waters but it was sooner than I anticipated.”
As a matter of fact, preparations for next year’s squad are already underway as the Bear’s strength program does not take a pause.
“We’re in the weight room 51 weeks out of the year,” Burnett said. “We take the week of Christmas off. We try to get two weight session a week. Most of the players will go on and play basketball and they will get additional sessions, with two being the minimum.”
Those who are not playing basketball get even more work in with footwork and agility training in the mornings before school and during the athletic period.
“We do a lot of specialized work, a speed program, or some extra, targeted weight training,” he said. “There are lot of different looks.”
The fifth-seeded Mustangs’ displayed a potent offense against top-ranked Gateway Christian in the six-man semifinals.
As a matter of fact, in putting up 38 last week, Mountainair doubled the next-best point total for any of the Warriors’ opponents this season.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the defense was unable to slow down potent Gateway attack in losing 66-38.
This is the second consecutive year that the Warriors have beaten Mountainair in the playoffs, last season coming in the championship game.
As a matter of fact, Gateway has won 33 straight games and is gunning for its third straight title. If the Warriors beat Roy, it would be their eighth championship overall and equal the state’s second-longest winning streak.
The Mustangs were the last team to hang an L on Gateway in the abbreviated spring 2021 season.