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NMAA’s New Class and District Realignments: What It Means for La Cueva

AUSTIN DENTON | SPORTS

UPDATE 12/7/17: Albuquerque Journal’s James Yodice reported late Wednesday night that Albuquerque High and Rio Grande’s football programs have decided to go independent and will not participate in Class 6A, District 2 competition. That paragraph from the story is corrected below.

The New Mexico Activities Association announced the new class and district realignments for all athletic sports that will take effect the 2018-19 year.

It features football programs across the state sticking with six classifications and newly reformed districts, and the rest of the sports across the state dropping down to five classifications and also newly reformed districts. So how does this affect La Cueva athletics?

Class 6A, which is the class that the Bears are currently in for football and all other sports, will cut down from four districts to three in football. As for all of the other sports, the Bears will be dropped to Class 5A, but that will still be the highest class that any program can be in and will also have a newly formed district.

The NMAA announced new district and class realignments in hopes to improve competition. Photo: nmact.org

In football, the Bears will still be competing in Class 6A, District 2 with the same teams this season that were in the district last season, which are the Clovis Wildcats, Eldorado Eagles, Manzano Monarchs and the Sandia Matadors.

La Cueva’s athletic director LeeAnn Moores said that with these new districts moving out and combining into the new districts, the weaker districts no longer have an automatic bid in to the state tournament, creating a greater chance for top 10 teams to be in state. “With these districts dissolving and the teams being dispersed among other districts, I would argue that there is a greater chance that the true top 10 teams will be in the state bracket,” Moores said.

In basketball, volleyball, track & field, baseball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis and wrestling, the Bears will be in Class 5A, District 2. Only one other team from this year’s district stays, that team being Eldorado. Jumping into District 2 for these sports will be the Farmington Scorpions, the Piedra Vista Panthers and the West Mesa Mustangs.

Swimming and diving has a much larger district when it comes to their district and how they compete against each other in district meets, just because it is a rarity that swimming and diving ever directly compete against a team in a meet. The only thing that is added onto the district is all the members of the new district in the other sports.

“Geography is a key element,” Moores said about the changes. “Even though we have outliers, in a less populated state like ours, we are going to have several hours to travel at times.”

Moores also explained that with the new changes, she believes there is more equal competition amongst the members. She said, “I would argue that the districts are more balanced competition wise.  Different sports have their own stronger and weaker schools in some regions but on the whole, the districts to me seem pretty balanced.”

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The Rematch: Preview of State Football Championship Game

AUSTIN DENTON | SPORTS

WR Grant Giesler celebrates the game winning catch he made against Cleveland. Photo: Una Woisin

History has been made, and the state championship game hasn’t even been played yet. For the first time in New Mexico high school football history, the two teams that will be competing for the Class 6A State Championship on Saturday will be schools from the city of Albuquerque.

And these two teams brought fireworks in their last match-up, the #1 seed Manzano Monarchs and the #2 seed La Cueva Bears.

Manzano and La Cueva met earlier in the regular season, which ended in a 28-21 win for the Monarchs, handing the Bears their first and, so far, only loss of the entire season. In that game, the Monarchs jumped out in front of the Bears 21-0 by the end of the first half, and it looked like it wasn’t even going to be a close contest. Manzano dominated on all cylinders.

Both teams would trade touchdowns in the third quarter to make it 28-7 in favor of Manzano. The Bears would make a last effort in the 4th quarter, scoring 14 unanswered points, even attempting a couple of times to tie it up in the fourth, but La Cueva fell just short.

Now, it’s a whole new day. But this time the stakes are higher for both teams. A blue trophy and the bragging rights of “state champions” are on the line in one of the most competitive years of New Mexico High School Football.

For La Cueva, it’s going to be all about their defense shutting down the running game by the Monarchs. The dual threat of QB Jordan Byrd and RB Xavier Ivey-Saud was the key for Manzano in defeating La Cueva in the regular season. In their regular season game, Byrd had 13 carries for 111 yards for two touchdowns and Ivey-Saud had 30 carries for 140 yards for two touchdowns.

Manzano’s offense did an excellent job of finding gaps in La Cueva’s defense, rushing for a total of 238 yards. The passing and receiving statistics were mainly non-existent though for the Monarchs, Byrd throwing just 2-5 for two yards and Jack Blankenship with the lone reception. If the Bears can once again put the pressure on Manzano’s passing game, while at the same time forming a new plan to contain the Monarchs’ running game, they will be in good hands.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Bears will once again be without starting QB Dylan Summer, so they will rely on a rotation between WR Reece Wilkinson using the Wildcat formation and sophomore backup QB Austin Smith. In La Cueva’s semifinal game, Wilkinson went 2-5 for 99 yards passing, and Smith going 5-10 for 18 yards and the one lone passing touchdown of the game, the game-winning one to WR Grant Giesler in overtime.

As for Manzano, their keys will be to have their defense perform strongly, just like they did in the first half of the regular season game, shutting the Bears offense down to zero points. Senior LB Cameron Herrera for the Monarchs had 11 tackles in the regular season game, and the Monarchs overall had three sacks the entire game. And once again, the running attack on offense will be key for the Monarchs if they want to finish off their season strong. But if the Bears are better prepared for it this go-around, and if they attack the air, they have a good receiving core with Andrew Erickson, Jack Blankenship, and Dakota Powell.

For the Bears, their path to the state championship has been one full of back and forth games that took a last minute score to win it. In their quarterfinal game against the Eldorado Eagles, the Bears were down 28-7 at the end of the first half before making a miraculous comeback in the third quarter, tying it at 28-28. Then the Bears pulled away in the fourth, making the final score 38-35. Then in their semifinal match with the Cleveland Storm, it would be a back-and-forth defensive affair that saw a 14-10 score at halftime before both offensive sides would let loose, forcing overtime. La Cueva finished it on the game-winning catch by Giesler to make it 37-34.

As for the Monarchs, they continued their dominant fashion wins in their path to the championship, defeating the Clovis Wildcats in the quarterfinals by a score of 49-7, and a decisive win against the Las Cruces Bulldawgs by a score of 28-10 in the semifinals.

If Manzano were to win the state championship, it would be their first-ever state championship as a football program. As for the Bears, it would be their first state title since 2009, and 5th overall state championship.

The NMAA and APS are expecting a full house for Saturday’s contest at Wilson Stadium. Follow the online link posted below to get tickets if you plan on attending. The La Cueva Senate has been promoting the “Whiteout” theme. All fans attending the game, please wear white shirts.

The following is the link to buy tickets: https://goo.gl/yKm6J9

 

 

Athletics Weekend in Review: State Champions, District Champions, and Plenty More

AUSTIN DENTON | SPORTS

The girls soccer poses after they are crowned state champions. Photo courtesy of Lexie Keller

What a week it was for La Cueva High School athletics. From district champions to state placers and runner-ups, all the way up to state champions, it was one full of action. Here’s all the details of what happened:

Volleyball claims District 2-6A Tournament Championship and gets State Seeding:

The highly-talented volleyball team at La Cueva pulled off the District 2-6A tournament championship with a 3-1 win over the Sandia Matadors Saturday. That led to them finding out on Sunday evening they were the #2 seed in the state volleyball tournament and will start play in Pool #2, with the #7 Cleveland Storm and the #11 Cibola Cougars. If they place first in the pool, they start with a bye in the bracket. Second or third place gets them in the play-in bracket games.

Boys Cross Country finishes 5th and Girls finish 8th in State Championships:

The boys and girls cross country teams finished fifth and eighth in their state championships on Saturday. The boys team was lead by Trace Johnson, who ran a 17:05.75 and the girls cross country team was led by Brynn Esplin, who ran a 20:58.20.

Boys soccer barely falls to Albuquerque High, claim runner-up in state tournament:

The boys soccer team gave it their all, but fell short to the #1 seed Albuquerque High Bulldogs in a back-and-forth contest, by a score of 3-2. The Bulldogs’ Carlos Gutierrez got the scoring started early for them in the 34th minute, as he was a big factor in ABQ High’s success this year, also getting the assist from Bulldog captain Luca Seazzu. The Bears answered back five minutes later on a Marco Monetti goal on the assist from Chris Manning. The score was tied 1-1 at halftime. The scoring got started again in the second half on a goal by Rado Josoa for the Bulldogs on the assist from Gutierrez. But the Bears again answered back 14 minutes later on a penalty kick by Manning, but the deal was finally sealed by the Bulldogs on a penalty kick by Gutierrez to make it 3-2 final score. “We had a great year,” boys soccer coach Easy Jimenez said to the Albuquerque Journal. “And it was a great team. I couldn’t ask any more from the guys. My heart’s full.”

Girls soccer takes home 16th state championship, defeats Cleveland on a “Golden Goal”:

The girls soccer team claimed their 16th state championship in program history with a win over the Cleveland Storm in OT, 1-0 on the “Golden Goal” by junior Hannah Rivera. After the girls team was beaten in the state final the past two years by the Cibola Cougars, they finally secured the state title they have been waiting a long time for. The game was a total deadlock until the goal by Rivera on the assist from Deja Sandoval was the first to get into the net the entire game. “I am so happy for my team, and especially my seniors,” said girls soccer coach Amber Ashcraft to the Albuquerque Journal. “So many of them have been on this team the past two years, and they were finally able to get it.”

Along with these athletics having a good week, the ROTC program finished first in one of their competitions this week, and our marching band finished second in class in the Bands of America competition in St. George, Utah.