Notes from the North

Never one to back down from a challenge, Santa Fe’s own Zach Russell had to earn his way to the next level of his football career by walking onto the team at Fort Lewis College. He made the most of it, earning honorable mention honors as a true freshman this season.

The Santa Fe High graduate redshirted his true freshman season but cracked the lineup this fall. He finished second on the Skyhawks with 32 catches for 263 yards and four touchdowns. He hit his stride in the final five weeks of the recently completed season, catching 27 passes for 151 yards and all four of his trips to the end zone.

He had a career day in the regular season finale against South Dakota School of Mines, with eight receptions for 72 yards and two TDs. He played in the Sept. 7 game at New Mexico Highlands but didn’t record a stat line.

“To see Zach and Jeff [Hanson, sophomore running back] get honorable mention even with the productivity our offense lacked this season with injuries and some other things, it’s a bright light and leaning toward where we want to be in the future,” said Fort Lewis head coach Brandon Crosby.

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There was some Northern New Mexico flavor in Durango, Colo., on Saturday — and none of it belonged to Northern New Mexico College. Fort Lewis College rolled to a 93-59 win over the Eagles thanks in part to Española Valley graduate Kaitlyn Romero and Santa Fe High grad Kayla Herrera-Flores. Romero was a perfect 4-for-4 from the 3-point range and had 12 points, while Herrera-Flores had nine points and tied for the team lead in assists with five.

Herrera-Flores also has Sundevils ties — she married 2016 Española graduate Marcos Flores over the summer.

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Anyone who wants to play quarterback, running back or defense for the University of New Mexico football team just raise your hand.

That apparently no longer includes Colin Kaepernick. More on that in a second.

Down to 56 healthy and able-bodied players for next week’s season finale against Utah State, the Lobos will give the start at QB to redshirt freshman Trae Hall. After a hamstring injury claimed No. 1 guy Tevaka Tuioti on Saturday, Hall is the last healthy scholarship quarterback on the entire roster.

His backup is a walk-on freshman, a player head coach Bob Davie knows next to nothing about.

“Connor Genal, I believe,” Davie said Saturday, turning to his team spokesman for confirmation. “Am I saying that, pronouncing that right?”

Davie said Genal actually goes by a different name inside the locker room.

“Call him Kaepernick,” Davie said, failing to elaborate.

So there you go.

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When the New York Yankees made history by hiring Rachel Balkovec as the first full-time female hitting coach by a Major League team, they also brought a little history to New Mexico. Balkovec played catcher at the University of New Mexico from 2007-08 after transferring from Creighton.

Balkovec already broke a barrier in her career when the St. Louis Cardinals hired her as a minor league strength and conditioning coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming the first woman to hold a full-time strength and conditioning position in major league-affiliated baseball, according to the New York Times.

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When asked by a local TV crew on Saturday to discuss the recent death of defensive lineman Nahje Flowers, Davie said he didn’t have anything more to discuss.

This much is certain: Flowers was laid to rest in a private family ceremony on Friday in Los Angeles. Two of his UNM teammates, Elijah Lilly and Teton Saltes, attended the service and made it back to Albuquerque in time to be with the team for its game against Air Force.

Saturday’s game was orignially scheduled for Nov. 9 but was postponed two weeks after Flowers, a junior, is thought to have taken his own life the morning of Nov. 5.

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Time was of the essence in Saturday’s game between New Mexico and Air Force. The first quarter was completed in just 29 minutes of real time and the entire contest was over in a brisk 2 hours, 56 minutes — nearly half an hour shorter than the average length of a 2019 Lobo game.

The first quarter of the season opener against Sam Houston State took an agonizing 1:04 to complete, part of two home games this year that lasted almost four full hours.

If you’re keeping track at home (and, really, who isn’t?), the average time for UNM this season is 3:22. The average home game, which includes Saturday’s sub-three-hour gem, is now 3:30:12.

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Since we broached the subject of Highlands football, the Cowboys wrapped up their season Saturday at home by losing to Western New Mexico. NMHU (2-9) billed it as the La Batalla (The Battle) Bowl.

In what was otherwise a disappointing season (the Cowboys tied for last in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) Highlands had four players named all-RMAC, led by first-team defense player Malik Brown. A 5-foot-7, 156-pound junior free safety out of Chicago, Brown had team-highs in tackles and solo stops. He also had five interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles.

He was an honorable mention safety for the Cowboys last year. He has picked off 10 passes the last two seasons, recording more tackles than anyone on the team.

Cowboys Jacoby Mills (defensive tackle), Eli Schoettmer (linebacker) and Darrel McIntyre (tight end) were named RMAC honorable mention.

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The All-State boys and girls soccer teams were announced last week, and Class 1A/3A champion St. Michael’s collected a pair of first-team selections in froward Esteban Rigales and midfielder Wesley Sage Graham. Meanwhile, Berkeley Reynolds was a second-team midfielder.

Monte del Sol, the District 1-1A/3A champion and a state semifinalist, had just one all-state selection — second-team midfielder Pedro Chavez. By contrast, Tierra Encantada nabbed three second-team honors in defenders Jody Urbina and Antonio Varela along with forward Brian Pichardo.

On the girls side, St. Michael’s midfielders Lauryn Pecos and Daisy Smith were first-team selections on the 1A/3A team, while Santa Fe Prep collected a pair of first-teamers in goalkeeper Allison Kice and midfielder Maddie Mena. Prep also had senior Hayden Colfax earn a spot on the second team at striker.

Santa Fe Indian School earned its first all-state performer when defender Alyssa Shije made the second team.

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