Moriarty and Estancia high school student-athletes returned to their schools’ weight rooms this week brimming with enthusiasm, but the return of football on Feb. 1 and other sports thereafter remains up in the air like a mass ascension during Balloon Fiesta.

“It feels good to be back, ya know what I mean?” Moriarty senior Justin Carmona said during a weightlifting workout this week. “But it’s a little, like, iffy though cuz we’re not completely sure if we’re gonna have a season.”

“Oh yeah, it feels really good to get out, just to go to the gym to work out every day—it feels really good,” Moriarty junior Cayden Dunn said.

High school workouts in small pods—with mandatory social distancing and mask wearing—are currently allowed under the state’s public health order and the New Mexico Activities Association’s guidelines.

Moriarty resumed its weight room workouts Monday. Estancia started up Tuesday.

“I feel good that we at least get to be back in the weight room, staying active, being able to do our workouts, it’s gonna help get us ready for the season—if we have it,” Estancia senior Jacob Zamora said.

The return of high school sports in New Mexico—postponed last year due to Covid-19—is tentatively set to get underway in less than two weeks, beginning with football. Volleyball and cross country are tentatively set to start on Feb. 15 and other sports are slated to start in March and April.

During her Jan. 14 press conference, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she was optimistic about the return of sports.

But earlier this week the NMAA posted a new video online with executive director Sally Marquez stating that the NMAA has not yet received the go-ahead from the governor’s office to resume competitions.

“There has been some conversation,” Marquez said in her latest video about communication with the governor’s office. “We are hopeful. We are still staying in that mode that we are hopeful that we are going to be able to play all sports in the 20-21 school year. However, we have not been given the green light as of yet.”

And without that green light from the governor’s office, no high school competitions can be played.

“I’m hoping so bad for a season,” Carmona said.

“I’ll be kind of upset,” Estancia senior Isidro Astorga said about the possibility of canceling football. “But then you just focus on basketball, or track and all that afterwards—of course, it’s gonna suck if there’s no football.”

Marquez held a Zoom meeting on Jan. 19 with high school football coaches to gain input, and several ideas were batted around, according to Estancia High School’s athletic director and head football coach Stewart Burnett—but he said many of the ideas are not practical for smaller schools.

Moriarty High’s Cayden Dunn working out in the Pintos’ weight room Jan. 18. Photo by Ger Demarest.

“If you’re trying to solve the problem for just football, there were some great ideas [discussed during the meeting],” Burnett said. “But a lot of the solutions involve trampling all over every other sport which doesn’t work.”

One idea that was proposed is to push the already-delayed football season back to March to run concurrently with the already-delayed basketball season, which Burnett said would not work for a small school like Estancia.

“My starting 11 football players are our basketball team,” Burnett said.

But nothing is going to happen until a decision is released by the governor regarding high school sports competitions, so football players and other student-athletes can only work out and hope for their seasons to return. “Just gotta wait and see,” Carmona said. “Whatever happens, happens. We can’t really control that.”

Estancia junior Adrian Lucero said that no matter what lies ahead, he will work through it: “I just tell myself that you just gotta work hard, cuz even if there’s no sports, I’m here every day with my teammates and I’m here being productive and that’s all that matters.”