The Valencia Jaguars football team will be facing off against a lot of new faces if football returns in the fall.
The Jaguars, due to a drop in enrollment, have dropped from Class 5A in football, down to class 4A, the classification where the rest of the Jaguar teams compete.
This means Los Lunas and Belen will no longer be district foes for VHS and instead, the Jaguars will see Grants, St. Pius, Albuquerque Academy and Bernalillo in district play.
The Pirates and Sartans are familiar faces to the rest of the Jaguars teams, playing in the same district with the three Valencia County schools during the last cycle in all sports except for football.
The Pirates were the top team in their district last fall, going 10-2 overall and 5-0 in district play under the direction of head coach Rio Thompson.
GHS was explosive offensively, scoring 50 or more points seven times and totaling 546 points on the season.
The next highest-scoring team in the district was Taos, who managed 308 points across the course of the season.
Grants earned the four seed in the playoffs, and fell to state runner-up Bloomfield in the semifinals, 48-41.
The Pirates return most of their big contributors on offense, highlighted by rising junior quarterback Brandon Furbee.
In his first year as the starter, he threw for 1,611 yards, 20 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
St. Pius X
The Sartans struggled some last season, finishing 4-7 overall, but 3-2 in district. SPX played a tough schedule which saw them open the season with 5A playoff teams Goddard and Piedra Vista, games they went 0-2 in.
Their district losses came against Taos and Grants, the two teams to finish above them. The Sartans qualified for the playoffs as the nine seed, where they were blown out by Ruidoso, 35-13.
Heading into next season, St. Pius will have to find a replacement for starting quarterback Derek Rivera, who they lost to graduation. Rivera threw for 1,312 yards, 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last season.
The Sartans also graduate their top four receivers, leaving their passing attack in need of all new faces.
Marco Ybarra, who was the team’s leading rusher, is the top offensive player returning for next year.
He rushed for 233 yards and four touchdowns in only four games.
Last season, the Chargers went 4-6 as an independent team and were the 79th ranked team in the state, according to Max Preps.
Playing as an independent meant that Academy had a schedule which included numerous class 3A teams as well as Montezuma-Cortez in Cortez, Colo.
Academy, which is led by Shaun Gehres, didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
The Chargers were led by freshman quarterback AJ Rivera, who threw for 1,476 yards, 12 passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
The Spartans went 6-5 overall and 2-3 in district play last year under the direction of John Cobos and were blown out by Aztec in the playoffs as the No. 11 seed, 56-13.
BHS returns starting quarterback Adam Salazar, who threw for 915 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions last season as a junior. Ayden Madrid, the team’s top rusher, who put up 927 yards and 20 total touchdowns last season, will also return.
Bernalillo finished in fourth place in the district, losing to the three teams, St. Pius, Grants and Taos that finished above them. According to the BHS schedule posted on Max Preps, the Spartans will travel to Valencia on Friday, Oct. 23.