Monday, September 25, 2023

Prep Football Kickoff Weekend Finally Here

All Three Local Schools Coming Off Playoff Appearances


The wait is almost over.

It is go time for high school football—andplayers and coachesare excited to kick off the 2023 campaign.


After watching film from last week’s preseason scrimmage against St. Michael’s,Pintos head coach Gabe Romero addressed his team with a positive pep talk.

“We’re right there,” Romero told his players. “There’s nothing here that says, ‘We can’t fix it.’”

The bulk of Moriarty’s squad doesn’t have a lot of varsity experience. The Pintos lost several of last year’s starters to graduation—along with a few current seniors who decided not to come back this season.

But Romero said he is confident in the players he has on his current roster.

“They are hard workers, they have really good attitudes and I think they’re gonna learn from the mistakes they make,” he said. “Once we get a couple of wins under our belt and get everything going where it needs to be, I think we’re gonna be competing for a district championship.”

Romero said he still needs to solidify some of the final starting positions, but he’s confident about letting senior Ele Mackrain (6-foot, 2-inches, Sr.) take the reins as quarterback.

“You know, Ele’s been playing big for us, he looked really good (in the St. Mike’s scrimmage),” Romero said.

Mackrain, who was the junior-varsity quarterback and varsity back up last year, said he knows that being the starting varsity QB is a big responsibility.

“It’s very humbling, I’ve been waiting for it forever,” he said. “It’s very exciting, I’m very blessed and I hope I can show up for my boys and my family and do the best I can.”

Caedon Kamplain (5-3, 130, Jr.) is another player who previously served in a backup role and is a strong candidate to claim a starting position this season. Moriarty lost most of its backfield from last year, leaving the door open for Kamplain to step into the primary running back position.

Kamplain has only one varsity touchdown under his belt but hopes to score a lot more.

“I wanna get as many as I can,” he said. “I’m pretty stoked about it, it’s a little bit of pressure but I’m ready for it. I can’t wait to find a hole, run through the line and pass through some arm tackles.”

Kamplain said he hopes to play multiple positions so he can get on the field as much as possible whenever he’s needed.

“I’ll play a little tight end, I’ll play wing, I’m learning quarterback, so you know, it’s just next man up,” he said.

Antonio Cano (6-0, 170, Sr.) also is champing at the bit. Cano is hoping to earn the starting tight end and linebacker positions.

“I’m really pumped,” Cano said. “I’m excited to finally bring it senior year.”

A pair of Moriarty’s returning starters, Corban Pearce (6-1, 205, Jr., OG/DL) and Isaiah Quintana (6-0, 145, Sr., WR/DB), were showing their leaderships skills and prodding their teammates at recent practices.

Pearce, said one of his goals is to be an example for his teammates who haven’t played varsity before.

“I’m just trying to show them that football is hard and you gotta push yourself but it’s also fun,” Pearce said. “I love it more than anything, this is my sport, this is where I wanna be.”


The biggestchange this season for Estancia will be the lack of a traditional quarterback under center.

Bears head coach Stewart Burnett said they tried out a couple of players at quarterback, but none really fit the mold so now they are going with a Wildcat offense: a direct snap in shotgun formation to running back Josh Calhoon (5-7, 140, Sr.).

“Josh is not a quarterback, so we’re just direct-snapping and running all of our stuff through him,” Burnett said.

As the lynchpin in the backfield, Calhoon — a speedy ball carrier who tallied more than 1,400 yards rushing last season with 12 touchdowns — will keep the ball and run with it a lot of the time or handoff to another player or occasionally toss a screen pass.

“I’m not technically the quarterback but I’ll be acting as a quarterback,” Calhoon said. “I can throw small slants but nothing too far, so running’s definitely gonna be the biggest part of our game.”

And he can’t wait to get his hands on the ball in a game.

“Oh, I want it so bad, yes sir,” Calhoon said. “I think it’s gonna be amazing. I think we’re gonna be able to, you know, put some teams in the dirt this year.”

With the ground game being the Bears’ bread and butter, tight end Seth Dunlap (6-0, 165, Sr.) said he’ll be taking on a lot of blocking duties — though he’d like to get more touchdowns.

“Not having a quarterback that really throws will be difficult for me at tight end, but we’ll make it work,” Dunlap said. “The main goal is to win. But I’m good with getting some pancake blocks and to just be better overall.”

One of the cornerstones for Estancia’s offensive success will be lineman, Edward Lucero (5-10, 165, Sr.).

“Edward has looked very good,” Burnett said.

“I’m real excited for the season,” said Lucero, who also plays outside linebacker on defense. “I think we’re all physically better than we were last year, and just all-around better and ready for the season.”

Burnett said he was impressed with how the Class 2A Bears handled themselves in their preseason three-team scrimmage last week with Class 5A Belen and 4A Valencia.

“It went stinkin’ well,” Burnett said, adding, "We’re stronger than we’ve been in a while, we’re physical and we’re experienced.”

Burnett said the Bears’ schedule is going to be brutal. A big test will come right out of the gate in the season opener against Texico — a team that finished the 2022 season as the state runner-up and steamrolled Estancia in last year’s season opener.

But Burnett thinks the Bears’ experience will help them hang with any of the 2A powerhouses.

“I feel like we can line up and play with anybody,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re gonna beat them, but we can dang sure play with them.”


Coming off a season as the state’s runners up, the Mustangs know there is a lot to prove.

And the team’s two seniors are looking to do just that in order to help the team reach a state championship – something Mountainair has not done since 2007.

“I’m just kind of looking forward to playing out with all of these new guys,” said Diego Luna (5-8, 165, C/CB). “We’re the only two seniors so these are all new guys. We have to really step it up last year.”

Luna, along with fellow senior Hayden Bingham (5-10, 165, WR/CB), will fill the crucial role in the defensive backfield.

But just getting the chance to take the field is a reward unto itself, Luna said.

“It’s just a great experience overall,” he said. “It teaches you a lot, especially the way the coaches are teaching us and coaching us. It’s about life and discipline and what you’re going to do after school. I just try and be a leader and be an example for everyone and try and help everybody else to do their best, too.”

The goal this season, Luna said, is to not only get back to the stance championship game, but this year get the ring that eluded them last year, despite having eight seniors graduate.

“I see us in another state championship game,” he said. “I think the first few game are going to be a little rough. It might take some time to get things moving, Last year, everyone was solid, this year, I think we’ll be pretty good and by the time the playoffs come, we’ll be ready to go. I think we’ll make it to state game again.”

For Bingham, he’s coming off a bit of an adjustment season after moving back to the Mustangs after spending his freshman and sophomore seasons in Estancia.

But now that he’s one of the team’s leaders, he is ready to grab that role.

“It means a lot to know that I’m a senior and everyone looks up to us,” Bingham said. “It’s definitely stressful because it is only Diego and I. You have to set that example for the new guys coming in.”

And that, of course, carries the weight of higher expectations, especially after the season the Mustangs had a year ago.

“Everyone expects a lot from you, it pushes more,” Bingham said. “You strive to be better. All these new guys, they’re good. I’ve seen them practice and stuff. So expectations are very high this year.”

The Independent Editor Glen Rosales contributed to this report.


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