Notes from the North

He’s an L.A. guy, born and raised in the SoCal lifestyle that includes traffic jams, beaches and more sports teams than seem fair to those of us living in the isolated high desert of Northern New Mexico.

In short, Vance Jackson has options.

The University of New Mexico men’s basketball player grew up with the luxury of choosing between two teams in the NBA, two in baseball, two in hockey and the residual loyalty factor of the Raiders and Rams in the NFL.

When asked who earns his love in hoops, he didn’t hesitate when saying the Lakers. Not surprising. It’s hard to imagine any kid growing up in L.A. not immediately identifying with the purple and gold over the Clippers. It’s also not surprising he picked the Dodgers over the Angels in baseball.

What is interesting is something he threw out toward the tail end of his answer about America’s pastime. He said if the Dodgers make it to the World Series against the Yankees, he’s rooting for …

“Oh, Yankees for sure,” he said. “Has to be the Yankees.”

OK then.

• • •

The Academy for Technology and the Classics girls cross-country team performed admirably at the Nike Desert Twilight Festival at Casa Grande, Ariz., finishing in 17th place in the championship division. Maggie Rittmeyer placed 12th with a time of 19 minutes, 13.28 seconds to pace the Phoenix. It capped a hectic two-day stretch for some of the Phoenix runners, who also double as soccer players. Sisters Maggie and Lily Rittmeyer plus sophomore Liberty Horne went from beating Capital 2-1 at the Santa Fe Downs on Thursday afternoon to getting on the activities bus to travel to Gallup for a Stover at Rehoboth Christian High School before finishing the trip to Arizona on Friday.

For their efforts, the Rittmeyers and Horne won’t have to compete in a meet this weekend. However, they will travel to Farmington on Tuesday to take on Navajo Prep in a District 1-1A/3A opener.

• • •

Yes, it’s still soccer season.

For everyone who complains that baseball season drags on too long, enter the United Soccer League. The organization that welcomed the New Mexico United as an expansion team this year kicked things off in early March and still has another three weeks remaining in the regular season.

The bad news for the United is they’re technically on the outside looking in at the playoff picture — for now. They’re tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 41 points. At 10-9-11, they are knotted with San Antonio for 10th place. The top 10 teams in each conference qualify for the postseason with the bottom four starting the opening round with a play-in game.

As Aaron Rodgers might say, relax.

The United’s final four regular season matches are against teams currently beneath them in the standings, and three of those are at Isotopes Park. Not only could (should) the United make the playoffs, they stand a good chance of jumping into the top six and avoiding the opening round.

Sacramento is in sixth place in the West with 44 points. Teams get three points for a win, so it goes to figure that a hot finish will vault Somos Unidos into a decent spot when the playoff start the week before Halloween.

• • •

For the second time in the last three seasons, Santa Fe Indian School’s football team is off to a 4-1 start after the Braves handed Thoreau a 26-6 win on the road. In 2017, SFIS started 4-0 before heading into District 2-4A play, but a 62-7 loss to Taos in a Thursday night contest at home began a six-game losing streak to end the year. This time, the Braves play Las Vegas Robertson to open 2-3A play — and it’s on Thursday.

• • •

And then there were five.

We’re six weeks into the 11-man high school football season and there are only five undefeated teams remaining. Capital isn’t one of them, but they’ve played like one the last two weeks with lopsided shutout wins at home. The Jaguars have climbed into the top 10 of the coaches poll in Class 5A and can make a significant leap towards something greater than respectability in the next two games with dates against 4A’s top-ranked Portales and perennial district bully Albuquerque Del Norte.

But head coach Bill Moon says pump the brakes on putting the Jaguars in the penthouse.

“First things first, we need to make sure we get healthy and keep making the adjustments the assistant coaches have been doing at halftime,” he said.

In other words, Capital is trending in the right direction. Maybe not undefeated good, but certainly in a position to make a little noise.

• • •

Let’s empty the notebook from Friday night’s Horsemen-Demons thriller.

• St. Michael’s running back Derek Roybal, who was on the shelf with a knee injury he suffered last year, carried the ball six times for 41 yards and scored his first touchdown since scoring from 3 yards out against Las Vegas Robertson on Oct. 20, 2018 in a 39-7 win. His 16-yard run in the third quarter cut the Demons’ lead to 20-18 and set the stage for a wild fourth-quarter finish.

• Horsemen quarterback Lucas Coriz officially had a game in which he completed more than half of his passes — finally. He was 5-for-9 with 102 yards in 1-plus quarters against Capital on Sept. 14, but that game was rendered a no-contest when lightning halted play. Mother Nature was noticeably absent this time, and Coriz completed 19 of 31 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown and caught a Rico Gurule pass for a 62-yard score that gave St. Michael’s a 26-20 lead with 10:37 left in the game.

• Luc Jaramillo has regressed as a passer. In a 20-6 loss at Bernalillo on Sept. 19, he completed just one of his 12 passes for 20 yards and threw two interceptions. He started off the night hitting just one of his first seven passes for only one yard. So, to put it in context, he went a game and a half completing just three of 19 passes for 21 yards. He finished the game 8 of 23 for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

• Was it a fumble or not? That was the lingering question for much of the game after Demons safety Martell Mora’s 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown gave his team a 14-6 lead in the second quarter. The controversy centered on whether Horsemen receiver Lucas Montoya had control of Coriz’s pass to the right flat. Just as he caught the ball, Santa Fe High cornerback Joaquin Martinez hit him to cause the ball to squirt free and Mora raced over to pick it up as the rest of the players stopped, thinking the play was dead.

Not that the sequence mattered in the end, but it lingered as the Demons continued to hold the lead through most of the second half.

• This is the closest margin of victory in the St. Michael’s-Santa Fe High series since the Horsemen won the 2007 edition by a paltry 6-0 score in which the winning score came with 6 seconds left … in the first half. The last time the outcome of the rivalry was decided in the final minute came in 2004, when James Gallegos’s 1-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds remaining gave the Demons a 21-14 win. Since then, the Demons are 1-14 against the Horsemen.

• • •

The last-minute dramatics that got St. Michael’s an 11th straight win over Santa Fe High last weekend handed the Horsemen their first win of the season. Given the sustained success the Horsemen have had the last two decades, it seems hard to believe that it took this long for them to finally erase the zero in the win column.

Here’s a little tidbit to impress all your pals at the water cooler: It’s the longest they’ve gone without a win to start a season since 1997. They went 1-10 that year, remaining winless until Oct. 18 when they beat McCurdy, 35-6, after starting 0-7.

In case you’re wondering, head coach Joey Fernandez — aka the winningest active coach in New Mexico — has never had a single season in which his teams didn’t win at least six games and has just one losing season in 18 years.

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