Notes from the North

Football season is nearly here.

Monday is the first day of preseason practice for high school football programs, signalling the start of the 2019-20 prep season. Teams will get three weeks of practice before taking the field to open the season on the Aug. 22-24 weekend.

With that in mind, here are some games to look forward to that could have playoff implications come November.

Aug. 23, St. Michael’s at Taos/Las Vegas Robertson at Santa Fe High. The Horsemen are perennial Class 3A contenders, while the Tigers are the defending 4A champ looking to show they are still the team to beat.

Meanwhile, the Demons get to gauge where they are at in the rebuilding process against the four-time 3A runners-up in the Cardinals.

Aug. 31, Portales at St. Michael’s. It’s a battle of historically strong teams as the 4A Rams come to Christian Brothers Athletic Complex in Week 2.

Sept. 13, Abq. Hope Christian at West Las Vegas. The Dons will know if they are contenders when they take on a Huskies squad that was the top seed last year.

Sept. 14, Capital at St. Michael’s. The Horsemen have won the last 20 games in the city championship rivalry and the last 13 games against the Jaguars.

Sept. 27, St. Michael’s at Santa Fe High. It’s been 11 years since the Demons beat the Horsemen. Can they end the streak?

Oct. 18, Santa Fe High at Los Alamos. The Demons came close to winning their first district game since 2013 against the Hilltoppers. This District 2-5A opener could set the tone.

Oct. 19, Capital at Abq. Del Norte. Signs point to this being for the 2-5A title, but will it also determine the lone district representative in the playoffs?

Oct. 25, St. Michael’s at Las Vegas Robertson. Sorry, West Las Vegas. This is the District 2-3A game everyone circles on their calendar, because it usually determines the champ.

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You don’t get the show!

But if you do, you were thrilled to see one of the country’s most lovable sports scribes wandering the streets of Santa Fe this past weekend. Greg Cote, a columnist for the Miami Herald and the bumbling old timer who steals the spotlight every Tuesday on ESPN radio’s Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, spent part of his vacation taking in the local eats in the City Different.

Cote took to Twitter, posting a photo of himself pouring a Modelo into a glass while eating lunch Saturday at The Shed as he and his wife embarked on a Southwestern vacation.

By midday Sunday, the post had garnered 700 likes and nearly 100 replies, many of which offered suggestions on what to see (and eat) while visiting New Mexico. Many borrowed from his catch phrase on the Le Batard show with posts like, “Modelo’in it,” “pourin’ it,” and “New Mexicoin’ it.”

Cote is a regular Tuesday guest on Le Batard’s show, which has been the country’s top-rated sports talk show for the last few years. It is streamed as a podcast across ESPN’s platforms and is broadcast live on the ESPN family of television networks every weekday.

Among Cote’s more popular contributions are his occasional “Back in My Day” segment and him getting cut off mid-thought by the hard network out at the end of each our on the three-hour show.

Hope you enjoyed your time in New Mexico, Greg. Thanks for Santa Fein’ it.

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Rodney Tafoya continued his journey toward 500 wins on Saturday, but didn’t get the outcome was hoping for. Pitching for the Pecos League Roswell Invaders in the season finale against the White Sands Pupfish, Tafoya allowed six runs over five innings with a walk, a hit batsman and two strikeouts over 92 pitches.

He left the mound with the Invaders trailing 6-1, but the Invaders scored six times in the seventh and twice in the bottom of the ninth for a 9-8 win. Tafoya, though, suffered his eighth no-decision on the year. He will head to Massachusetts to compete in a tournament in Cape Cod.

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To say the Santa Fe Fuego went out with a bang would be a slight understatement. The Fuego wrapped up yet another playoff-free 2019 Pecos League season Saturday night at Fort Marcy Ballpark by dismantling playoff-bound Garden City, 33-6.

Before we get into a season recap, some numbers from Saturday: 37 hits, nine home runs, 15 extra base hits, a 13-run second inning, a nine-run third and a ho-hum 6-for-7 night from first baseman Sherman Graves. He homered twice and drove in eight runs.

Wind starting pitcher David Peterson gave up 26 hits, 23 runs (all earned) and walked one in his three innings on the mound. It was his only pitching performance of the season, leaving him with a 69.00 earned run average.

As for the Fuego, their 27-31 record was just the third sub-.500 mark in the team’s eight-year history. They finished 141/2 games out of first place and were 10 games out of one of the three playoff spots in the Mountain Division.

It was the team’s fourth straight year without a playoff appearance, this despite the team’s batting average of .331 and league-high 121 home runs. Chalk it up to the pitching staff’s paltry (and somehow fitting) 9.11 earned run average that included an average of 6.3 walks and 12.4 hits per game.

Speaking of Sherman Graves, the Fuego’s go-to guy at the plate made a compelling argument for the league’s MVP award. He won two-thirds of the Pecos League’s triple crown category, finishing first in batting average (.431) and home runs (19). His 59 RBI ranked third, well short of the league-high 78 posted by Roswell’s Matt Paciello.

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Sabrina Lozada-Cabbage, a 2015 graduate of Santa Fe High, is about to embark on her professional basketball career. Elmer Chavez, who coached Lozada-Cabbage at Santa Fe High, said she flew to Portugal last week to start playing Portugal’s Vitória Sport Clube. Lozada-Cabbage recently finished her collegiate career at Wichita State, where she finished her senior year averaging 8.6 points and a team-high six rebounds per game in the 2018-19 season.

She was a highly sought-after recruit during her time at Santa Fe High, where she was a two-time Class 4A All-State player and helped the Demonettes win a state title in 2014.

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The latest round of senseless gun violence that shook El Paso on Saturday hit a little close to home for at least one Northern New Mexico sports figure.

Leroy Barela, formerly the girls basketball head coach at Las Vegas Robertson and the current holder of the same position at Albuquerque’s Eldorado High School, was in the border town this past weekend when the shooting took place.

In El Paso for a summer camp at Del Valle High School, Barela and the Lady Eagles were at a safe distance from the site of Saturday’s violence. Barela posted on Facebook that all was well.

“Friends and family we are here in El Paso for a Bball tourn,” his post began. “We are safe and all together. Those of you out here as well be safe.”