A familiar face has taken the reigns at Santa Fe High, and Capital is reeling from a Class 5A playoff snub while Los Alamos is retooling from its run to the 4A title game. Not to be overlooked, there’s plenty to build upon in the small-school ranks as Las Vegas Robertson reached the 1A/3A finals, Monte del Sol and Tierra Encantada each made it to the semifinals and St. Michael’s had its best year in more than half a decade. Here are the district-by-district outlooks for Northern teams:
The exit of Rob Quirk isn’t the biggest loss Santa Fe High must overcome. The Demons say adios to outgoing senior Matt Hunter, the team’s dynamic offensive threat who scored 49 percent of the team’s goals during last season’s playoff run. Chris Eadie returns as head coach after a 12-year break. He inherits a team that is trying to rebuild depth and stay ahead of crosstown rival Capital, which won a dozen games and finished third in 5-5A but did not make the playoffs. Coach Luis De La Cruz will, as usual, need to avoid the injury bug and/or player eligibility issues that have been so troublesome in years past for the Jaguars.
Los Alamos has a new coach, Luke Mace, and a new outlook after putting things together at just the right time last fall. A new outlook, however, is not necessarily a great thing considering the team rolled into the state championship match a year ago. Gone is one of the state’s most dynamic players in Arthur Steinkamp, but back is Aiden Semelsberger. The junior is the top returning scorer in a district that is the Hilltoppers’ to lose. Just don’t overlook Taos, a club hit hard by graduation but one that returns Aiden Heflin as one of the top scorers in 2-4A.
If you’re looking for any reason to be critical of Monte del Sol’s chances it’s this: The Dragons are working with their third head coach in four seasons … but even that’s a stretch. Victor Martin Gonzales is, by all accounts, the by-the-book leader the program needs to take the next step. He takes over a talented roster that returns virtually every key player from last season’s semifinal run. That, alone, makes Monte the team to beat in this district, if not the state. Expectations are sky high. Same, too, for Tierra Encantada. The Alarcranes had their best season in school history in last year’s semifinal run. Eleven seniors are gone, leaving a huge rebuilding task for head coach Kurtis Montoya.
This was, hands down, the most competitive top-heavy district in the state a year ago and there’s nothing to suggest it will be much different this fall. Las Vegas Robertson had its best season ever, riding the No. 2 seed into the state finals, but it was also a year in which St. Michael’s roared back to life. The Horsemen return a senior-heavy roster led by midfielder Berkeley Reynolds as well as the team’s leading goal scorer Wesley Graham. The team’s greatest strength was its balance and that should again be the case as any one of half a dozen players can have a huge impact at any time. Santa Fe Prep had an un-Prep like 3-win season a year ago. That will change as the Griffins return a deep roster that includes Mateo Stella, Luke Trevisani and Alex Mazur.