No inside scoop here.
Call it intuition or just common sense; either works.
From our Father’s Day perch, it’s appearing more and more likely that the upcoming high school football season will, at worst, be canceled or, at best, played without fans, thanks to the novel coronavirus, the proverbial knuckle-dragging beast standing in the corner glaring at all of us.
Chances are we’ll have the NFL in some capacity because, you know, money speaks.
College ball is starting to look a little shaky but, really, who’s going to notice if fans aren’t allowed into home games for the Lobos and Aggies? (Cue rimshot).
If and when prep football is shelved, there’s plenty we’re going to miss. Bundling up on Friday nights, sitting near the band on Saturday afternoons. Maybe even the occasional Thursday night matinee, rooting for kids who play for the pure love of the game instead of perks.
If football goes, it can’t be too long before the other fall sports begin to topple. Without a viable stop to the pandemic, cross-country, soccer and volleyball are in legitimate danger.
It’ll deprive us the chance to see Capital’s offensive line make running lanes for Luke Padilla, Santa Fe High’s run back to the playoffs and the annual wars between St. Michael’s, Robertson and West Las Vegas. So, too, the quest to defend state championships for the Los Alamos and Academy for Technology and the Classics girls cross-country teams, not to mention the Los Alamos boys. In soccer, could the Horsemen make it two Class 1A-3A titles in a row, and what will Robertson do for an encore in volleyball?
Honestly, we may never know.
So it comes down to this: Like all of us stuck watching reruns on ESPN, MLB and NFL networks, let’s delve into the history books to stoke the fires and try and make ourselves feel a bit nostalgic. For the fall sports, let’s examine the state’s most unbreakable records, standards that will (and have) stood the test of time.
Not only are Eric Roanhaus’ 335 career wins more than anyone else in state history, they all came at the same school (Clovis). No other active coach has even half that many, meaning the only way anyone comes even close to challenging the big man’s standard anytime soon is if Cooper Henderson (293) comes out of retirement and coaches another four years, minimum.
A longtime coach at Artesia, Henderson is fourth on the all-time list, and his 15 state titles will probably never be equaled. Same, too, for the late Jim Bradley’s incredible average of 10 wins a season over 31 years at Roswell and Mayfield. Take out the five years he spent at New Mexico State (1973-77) and two additional years on the sidelines before taking over at Roswell in 1980, and the record would be so far out of reach that they might as well name the record book after him.
For perspective, history will remember Joey Fernandez as the North’s greatest of all time, but he’d need to coach another 18 to 20 years (which, if we’re being honest, doesn’t seem that unrealistic) to etch his likeness among the Mount Rushmore of Roanhaus, Bradley, Henderson and Bill Gentry.
Think about it. You’re a player who scores an average of one touchdown a game during the regular season and, if you’re fortunate, get to do so again in your team’s one-and-done trip to the state playoffs. One season, 11 touchdowns. Nice.
Now try 11 touchdowns in one game. That unreal accomplishment has stood the test of time for more than half a century. Ernie Perea of Los Lunas found the end zone 11 times in a game against Wingate on Nov. 11, 1967. No one else in state history has had more than eight.
Pojoaque Valley had 10 touchdowns as a team in 2019 — in 10 games.
The seven straight championships Animas won in Class 2A between 1984-90 is remarkable considering you can fit the entire town of Animas in the student section of Toby Roybal Memorial Gymnasium, but that’s not what we’re here for. Same, too, for the Panthers’ 69-game winning streak or the mind-numbing 346 rushing yards surrendered for a season by La Cueva’s defense in 2013. Incredible.
Thirty and counting. Let’s be real, no one will challenge the standard set by the Artesia Bulldogs. They’ve won 30 state championships since 1957, losing just five times in all their trips to the title game. If you’ve never been to a game at the Bulldog Bowl, do yourself a favor and go.
As awesome as that is, the epicenter of New Mexico football is unquestionably Lea County in the far Southeast corner. It lays claim to a staggering 52 state titles (Lovington 18, Eunice 15, Jal 11, Tatum 6 and Hobbs 2), well ahead of places like Eddy County’s 39 (Artesia 30, Carlsbad 6, Loving 3), Doña Ana County’s 27 (Mayfield and Las Cruces 8 each, Gadsden 5, Hatch 4 and one each from Oñate and Mesilla Valley) and way in front of Bernalillo County’s 19 (La Cueva 5, Highland 4, St. Pius 3, Menaul 2 and one apiece from Del Norte, Sandia, Eldorado, Hope Christian and Manzano).
Stats-wise, the single-game scoring record of 112 points is nearly a century old and will never be broken now that the mercy rule is in effect. Deming managed that feat against Tularosa in 1925, just nine years after Albuquerque High hung 101 on Santa Fe High.
Cross-Country Boys (team)
Blue trophies are the jumping-off point for how we determine historical dominance but, really, that’s not necessarily the idea here. Sure, Zuni’s trophy case needs reinforcement with its 19 team titles, but we will likely never again see a repeat of Gallup’s run of 12 straight state championships between 1983-94.
The field is considerably more crowded these days with four (and formerly five) classifications, but winning a dozen in a row in the old three-class system is nothing short of remarkable given how packed each level was.
Records are made to be broken but this one, it’s up there with the Baltimore Orioles’ Cal Ripken Jr.’s iron man streak; not impossible but pretty close to it.
If New Mexico has done anything in sports, it’s produce great distance runners who have given us legendary moments. If you’re looking for a standout, there may be no better example than Cleveland’s Luis Martinez in 2012 when he won the 5A race by 47 seconds. That’s enough time to stop, have a sip of water and pose for a few photos before the next guy crosses the line.
It was his third straight individual title, and that day, he was the fastest person in the state, completing the course 43 seconds faster than anyone in the other races.
Luis went on to a stellar career at Oklahoma State.
Same story, same school, slightly different time period. Yes, Los Alamos has 21 blue trophies, but the 10 straight Gallup won between 1996 and 2005 is going to be hard to beat. The Lady Hilltoppers won seven in a row from 2009-15, but considering they’re in the same class as Albuquerque Academy and, now, Gallup, stringing together a decadelong streak seems unlikely.
Perhaps almost as impressive is the fact that 19 of the 20 titles in what is now 4A have gone to either Los Alamos or Academy, the lone exception being Belen 13 years ago.
It’s a short list of four-time state champs, a list that includes Kate Norskog of St. Michael’s (2006, 2008-10), and the first to do it, Elizabeth Gonzales of Peñasco (1982-85). No one, however, did it more impressively than Gallup’s Felicia Guliford.
The diminutive and relentlessly competitive Lady Bengal swept the big-school class from 1998-2001 before a celebrated All-American career in college at Tennessee.
The only year Guliford didn’t post the fastest time at state was 2000 when Pojoaque’s Jackie Gallegos ran the course 17 seconds faster to win the 3A crown while Guliford, then a junior, won in 5A.
Somewhere in the ether of the dark web there exists (probably) a record book for high school soccer in New Mexico. As of now, the rabbit hole it disappeared into is nowhere to be found now that Hall of Fame coach and administrator Larry Waters has put his once-popular website out to pasture.
That can’t stop us from reminiscing about marks that, around these parts anyway, are still kicking. The school-record 173 career goals scored by Jordan Miller while at St. Michael’s. She followed in the footsteps of some great players (remember Kim Sheehy?) but capped her senior season by scoring 60 times, averaging nearly three goals a game.
If you saw Miller play, you know she is arguably the best player Santa Fe has ever seen. Surely there will come a day where someone will come along and challenge her numbers, but no one can replace the way she thoroughly dominated games in high school.
Team-wise, time to send some good vibes up the hill. Los Alamos has been to the state finals 15 times since 1984, losing six straight and going 2-13. One of the more memorable losses produced possibly the best single-player effort in championship history when Albuquerque Academy’s Micaela Esquivel scored five of her team’s goals in a 6-3 win over the Lady Hilltoppers in the 2001 finals.
Most clubs these days play upward of 25 matches a season and, to some, scoring 30 goals is a fairly modest milestone — unless it’s in one game. That’s the mark Manzano hit in an Oct. 2, 1987, contest against Rio Grande. It still stands as a national record (tied for No. 1, actually) and one that will never be touched in New Mexico — barring a game in which the opponent scores at least 20 goals — thanks to the mercy rule.
Not to be outdone, the ridiculous run of 16 straight championship game appearances by St. Pius between 1993 and 2008 is one of the more remarkable records the sport will ever see. The longest current streak? Two, by Los Alamos. Prove me wrong, Hilltoppers. See you in 2033.
Minus the individual record book, the most impressive number that stands out for a single player (recently speaking) is the 99 goals Aidan Cserhat scored for Taos the last two years of his prep career. He followed that with an All-American career at NCAA Division III Drew University in New Jersey.
VolleyballFive championships in as many years with three different coaches. There are dynasties up and down the volleyball records book, but duplicating what Pojoaque Valley did between 2009-13 is one of those things we may never see again. It spoke to the remarkable grassroots program the school installed during then-head coach Brian Ainsworth’s tenure and managed to continue in the two seasons after he left for the Cleveland job.
The Elkettes amassed a 107-14 record, including the undefeated run of 2011. Ainsworth won the first three championships before Joey Trujillo and Eric Zamora followed suit.
That said, it’s impossible not to long for the last two years that saw Santa Fe High become a force in the big-school ranks, St. Michael’s won it all in 2018 and Robertson’s insane run last year with head coach Stacey Fulgenzi sitting in the stands after being suspended by the school.