A little over a week ago, Moriarty High School’s new head varsity football coach Gabe Romero wrapped up his optional summer workouts, gathered his players together and urged them to get the recruitment word out to their friends.

“Don’t just text them,” Romero said to the players. “Call them and tell them we need bodies.”

Romero is entering his 17th year coaching at Moriarty, but now that he’s piloting the program, bolstering his roster is just one piece of the overall puzzle.

“The whole management of the team is gonna be a big change for me,” Romero said. “Implementing practices, communicating with parents, community events, that stuff will all be new.”

The 42-year-old Romero, who graduated from Moriarty in 1994 and played football all four years, was a member of former head varsity coach Joe Anaya’s staff, handling the Pintos’ special teams: the units that are on the field during kicking plays.

A domino effect occurred when Moriarty’s former athletic director and coach Joe Bailey retired last May. Anaya subsequently took over as the school’s new A.D., and Romero knew it was his golden opportunity.

“This is what I want to do, so I went ahead and applied for it,” he said, adding, “I felt like this was the time, this is where I want to be.”

Romero said calling the offensive plays will also be a new experience.

“That’s gonna be a big change,” he said. “I’ve called it at the JV level and the freshman level, but I’ve never done it at the varsity level.”

And there’s the task of getting the Pintos back on the winning track.

Moriarty made the state playoffs last year as the twelfth seed but got knocked out in the first round. The Pintos produced a 3-8 overall record and were winless against their district rivals, managing just 14 points against Portales, Lovington, and Ruidoso while allowing those three opponents to rack up a combined 132 points.

“Our whole district shoved us around,” Romero said.

Now with two-a-day practices underway, Romero would still like to have more players, but he said he’s happy with the kids who are showing up and the work they’re doing.

“We’ve been talking a lot about pride and doing things right,” he said. “Being more disciplined, dedicated, hustling onto the field, things like that.”

And building pride in the Pintos is one of the most notable things that stands out about Romero —he bleeds green and white— but his main goal is producing good kids.

“I love the game, I love the school, this is my home, and our goal is to be successful, to shoot for a district championship,” Romero said. “But we also want to produce good kids and I think that’s the biggest thing—we want to produce good young men of character and help them on that journey.”