Moriarty High School football head coach Gabe Romero could not recall a time when there wasn’t football during the fall at his alma mater.
“Oh wow, I really don’t know,” Romero said. “I would imagine as long as we’ve had a school, there was probably football going on, I don’t know when there wasn’t.”
Romero graduated from Moriarty High in 1994 and played football all four years. He started playing football at Moriarty Middle School. He has held various coaching positions at Moriarty for 18 years.
Now, with the high school football season mothballed until February of 2021, Romero and dozens of his players, several assistant coaches—and even the cheerleaders, the marching band, and the Mirage dance team—all have a tremendous void in their respective calendars.
“It’s hard to believe we’re already a couple weeks into September,” Romero said. “Your whole sense of time and the year is off.”
It was around this time last year when the Pintos—with Romero in his new position as varsity head coach—picked up their first win of the season, a 40-12 victory over Valencia on Sept. 13.
Besides having no games on Fridays, the Pintos would typically be practicing every weekday afternoon, lifting weights early in the week, watching film, working on individual skills, running offensive and defensive schemes, and preparing for their upcoming opponents. “And there’s none of that happening. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just weird,” Romero said, adding that everyone is anxious to do something.
“What I’m hearing from most of the kids and parents is, they want to be out there,” he said. “They miss it, they miss being together, they miss competing. It’s been hard on them.”
Moriarty senior Justin Carmona, a running back and defensive back, is among the players whose daily routine has taken a detour with the season delayed until February. “Usually, everybody would be going 100 percent right now, trying to get better,” he said, adding, “You feel like you’re lazy in a way, you feel like you should be doing something but there’s nothing to do.”
Carmona said the early blast of cold weather that hit the area this week reminded him that much more of the loss of football. “This is exactly the weather we’d be playing in,” he said. “To not be playing is an odd experience.”
Though the New Mexico Activities Association is not allowing practices in the four contact sports it considers high-risk—football, soccer, basketball, and wrestling—it will allow schools to utilize their weight rooms in a limited capacity.
Romero said he wants to get his players into the weight room as soon as possible.
“I told them we’re gonna start up the weight room and they were really excited, some of them were like, ‘When? Can we start today?’” Romero said. “They’re really eager to do something.”
Looking ahead to February, Romero said he is not quite sure how it will all work out but he’s trying to stay positive, hoping that the team, especially the seniors, will get to play.
Romero couldn’t help getting a little emotional when he talked about the players that he expects to be team leaders—because it made him think about the irreplaceable loss of team captain Pete Sandoval. Sandoval and his brother Mateo died in a car accident earlier this year.
Romero mentioned multiple players, including Carmona, who he said “is gonna have some big shoes to fill with the absence of Pete.”
“The first thing that comes to mind are the words Pete always would say: ‘Get better today,’” Carmona said, adding, “Pete was the leader of the team. I’m gonna have to do the same as him, do everything that he did—show that he’s still here, that he made an impact on us, especially me.”
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.