Notes from the North

Ah, the rite of passage of fall.

Football, the changing of the colors, and college entrance exams affecting high school teams.

Saturday was the first day for the ACT college entrance exam, and it impacted almost every team in every sport that competed that day. It was readily apparent on the volleyball courts at Santa Fe High and Capital, the hosts of the Tournament of Champions.

One semifinal in the tournament’s gold bracket in Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium was greatly affected. Santa Fe High was missing two players for its semifinal matchup against Pojoaque Valley, while the Elkettes were without three players. Las Vegas Robertson was without four starters, and it showed in its loss to Los Lunas — a 25-16, 25-23, 25-15 sweep.

It even crept onto the football field, as St. Michael’s senior running back/linebacker Ray Lynch missed part of the first quarter between the Horsemen and Capital. Lynch wanted to get to the game so badly that he asked to be let out early from the test site, but the request was denied. He showed up in the first quarter — just in time to see the Horsemen fumble the ball to Capital.

He tried to get Horsemen defensive coordinator Joey Butler to let him take the field immediately, but was denied again as Butler told him to warm up first.

Lynch eventually did get on the field, but he only got in a quarter of play before weather forced a delay, then cancellation, of the game.

“I came onto the field with the attitude of wanting to get the ball back,” Lynch said. “I wanted to turn things around because I didn’t want any negativity going in or anything. It was a crazy morning for me.”

Ex-NMAA head runs for office

One of life’s simple rules is to keep sports and politics separate; both are better off without the other, and those of us with passions for both are better off without the two intertwining.

There are examples of sports types dabbling in politics, however, and this weekend we had another familiar sports name enter his hat into the fray for public office. Gary Tripp, West Las Vegas graduate and former executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association, announced he will run as a Democrat for Rio Rancho’s District 44 state House seat in the June primary.

The seat is held by Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, a Republican who has represented the district since 2003. 

Some of the other notable sports types in politics include Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and former Las Vegas, N.M., Mayor Henry Sanchez.

Morales was the baseball coach at Cobre High School in Bayard when he first got into politics while Sanchez had a Hall of Fame career as a basketball coach at New Mexico Highlands and in high school at Bernalillo and Robertson.

Father vs. daughter coaching

The finals of the Tournament of Champions was a family affair for the family of Joe Rodriguez, the Pojoaque Valley head coach. He coached his daughter, freshman defensive specialist Adrianna Rodriguez, while he coached against another daughter.

Marissa Rodriguez, a 2015 Pojoaque graduate, is in her first year as a varsity assistant and junior varsity head coach at Albuquerque Hope Christian.

Marissa Rodriguez coached the varsity squad for pool play and the quarterfinals Friday as head coach Sara Branch could not get away from her job to come to Santa Fe. Not to go six degrees of separation here, but Branch’s brother-in-law is Cibola graduate and former NFL player Alan Branch.

While Pojoaque walked off the court with the tournament title, the Lady Huskies will get a chance to exact revenge when the Elkettes go to Albuquerque on Sept. 24.

UNM pay day games continue

Saddle up, partner, this is just the early part of what looks like an annual thing.

The University of New Mexico’s

$1.1 million paycheck for losing by 52 points at Notre Dame on Saturday is but the latest in a long line of body bag games for the Lobos. They’ve played one Power Five team on the road in 10 of the last 11 years and have dates for at least one opponent through the 2023 season.

They have back-to-back road games next year at Mississippi State and USC. In 2021, they head to Texas A&M. The year after that, it’s at LSU, and in 2023 there’s another game at A&M. A trip to the Rose Bowl to face UCLA awaits in 2025.

NEW James Barron and Will Webber tie a bow on the prep football season for Santa Fe teams after Capital and St. Michael's bowed out in the first round. They also try to make sense of a new, complicated format for this week's state volleyball tournament.

The trend really started in 2009 when A&M was added as a road game to complete a rare home-and-home against the Aggies, who visited Albuquerque in 2008. The only year there wasn’t a body bag road game was 2013 when Arizona State started a home-and-home by visiting what was then just plain ol’ University Stadium.

The last decade has seen trips to A&M twice, Oregon, Arkansas, Texas, Pitt, Arizona State, Rutgers, Wisconsin and now Notre Dame. Including the home games, the Lobos are 0-12 in those contests.

Davie, instant replay memories

Sticking with the Lobos theme, head coach Bob Davie went into the memory banks recently to share an experience he had as a broadcaster.

He was an ESPN analyst when Central Florida visited Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 4, 2004.

The Badgers rolled, winning 34-6. It was memorable because it was the first instance in Big Ten history where instant replay was used to review a call on the field. Afterward, players and coaches were critical of the system, saying it delayed the game and wasn’t used at appropriate times — like on a close touchdown call just before the half.

Still in the experimental stages, the first replay came early in the first half. Davie remembered it well.

“They go to the guy, and it’s an older dude who had been a Big Ten official,” Davie said. “He’s sitting in the booth with his feet up — swear to God — eating a hot dog.”

Davie’s immediate analysis was critical, saying a lot was riding on calls that were handed off to a guy sitting in the booth munching on his lunch. Needless to say, things have gotten a little more efficient over the years, particularly due to the fact that it has been 15 years of fine-tuning to get to this point.

Santa Fe Prep cross-country

The Santa Fe Prep cross-country team had an outstanding performance at the Albuquerque Bosque School Invitational, as the boys and girls brought home first-place trophies. On the girls side, Prep had three runners in the top six (Sophie Addison was third, Chelsea Griscom was fourth and Hallie Weichsel took sixth) and its top five runners all finished in the first 12 spots.

Meanwhile, Josh Abeyta led the boys with a second-place finish as they had their first three runners finish in the top eight and their scoring five in the first 16 spots as well for a 36-point total.

As if that wasn’t enough hardware, the junior varsity boys took first with 18 points.

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