Demons coaches see better rushing with improved play calling

Santa Fe High School sophomore running back Martell Mora, chased by Las Vegas Robertson defenders Aug. 23, leads a Demons rushing attack that gained 261 yards against Taos on Sept. 13. He finished with 71 yards as Santa Fe High had its best rushing performance. Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican

Brevity is the soul of wit — or the way to establish a strong running game, if you’re Santa Fe High.

The running game was inconsistent through the first three weeks, ranging from stout against Moriarty (231 yards on the ground) to pedestrian against Las Vegas Robertson and

Española Valley (a combined 175 yards and an average of 3.2 yards per carry).

The Demons coaching staff decided to change things up — by shortening up the verbiage in the play calling.

“A lot of it was terminology,” Santa Fe High head coach Andrew Martinez said. “We really took some of the wording out of it, and it’s really a matter of, if the hole is to the right, seal to the right. If the hole is to the left, seal to the left, and they were like, ‘Oh yeah …’ You gotta still realize they’re still kids and they’re still learning the game.”

The result was Santa Fe High’s best rushing performance in a year, with 261 yards in a 30-15 upset over Taos that improved the Demons’ record to 3-1 — the team’s best mark since 2014. The Demons will need a similar performance Friday at Bernalillo, and the reward for that will be a 4-1 record and the team’s first four-game winning streak in

17 seasons.

If Santa Fe High is to ascend to contender status once District 2-5A play starts, it has to be able to run the ball as well as rely on the dual-threat skills of sophomore quarterback Luc Jaramillo. That made last week’s performance all the more encouraging.

“We’re able to execute better,” Demons sophomore Elijah Martinez said. “The changes we’ve made have been better. They’re able to open more holes and go [downfield] with their blocks.”

The Demons had questions on who would replace now-graduate Sammy Martinez, who had 536 yards in 2018. They looked at the trio of Elijah Martinez, Martell Mora and Matthew Maestas to fill that role, while Jaramillo continued to grow as signal-caller. However, the first few games revealed moments of success coupled with mistakes that often stunted drives.

In the season opener, the Demons had six drives in Cardinals territory but failed to score. Fumbles thwarted three drives. Another fumble on the opening drive the following week against Moriarty led to a lackluster first half in which the Demons had just 26 yards of total offense.

The fumbles were deeply concerning, but the running backs made a concerted effort to correct that. Since the Moriarty game, Santa Fe High has lost just one fumble.

“Ever since those fumbles, we’ve focused on ball security, ball security, ball security,” Mora said. “Putting the ball in the right hand, that was another thing. We’d have it in the wrong hand, and they’d hit us on the ball side and we’d lose it.”

However, the performance against the Tigers was the ideal attack coach Martinez wanted to see. Jaramillo connected on 8 of 14 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown while also running for 72 yards.

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He was one of four Demons to break 40 yards on the ground, and that allowed him to feature more play-action to keep Taos’ defense on its heels.

Coach Martinez added that it allows Santa Fe High to use its versatility in the backfield, with big backs who can gain yards in between the tackles with Maestas and Martinez, while also using Mora’s and Jaramillo’s speed to exploit the perimeter.

“We can use them all, and if we can keep them fresh going into the fourth quarter, that’s great,” coach Martinez said. “That really helped us last week. We were pretty fresh there.”

In the first two games, much of the offensive load fell to Jaramillo, and teams often sent eight or nine players to the line of scrimmage. Now, he is seeing fewer defenders rush him and he’s seeing more of the field.

“They can’t bring the house every time,” Jaramillo said. “I can run and I can throw, but it feels good when the other team is just rushing four [defenders] and I have a clean pocket. I can make a lot of things happen when everyone is doing their job.”

Sometimes, keeping it simple can make an offense look much more complex for defenses.

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