Demons on an independent schedule under new head coach Andrew Martinez, and carry a 24-game losing streak for the former Horsemen assistant coach
By ARNIE LESHIN, Santa Fe Today
“Freelance,” that’s what they call it. Break it down and it is independent football for the Santa Fe High football program under new head Andrew Martinez.
The school is still in District 2-6A, but not for football, A long losing streak is one reason, playing against other big schools with much more depth, size and talent, is another.
But Friday night’s season-opener at Ivan Head Stadium is no different than any other, for on the visitor’s sideline with be St. Michael’s, and across the way will be the Demons.
Martinez knows this opponent well, for he initially assisted new Horsemen head coach Joey Fernandez in 2002, and, taking time off for a knee injury in 2014 along with some personal matters, he was still Fernandez’ defensive coordinator last year.
So Martinez now has the reigns of a program on a 24-game losing streak, going 0-10 the last two seasons, and not winning since 2014 under Ray Holladay, who after nine years resigned after last season.
And basically that is the prime reason whey the school finds itself in a freelance division. It was its decision in place of tackling District 2-6A again. No doubt the bigger schools have more depth, more size and more talent (and more rivals) when they meet up with Santa Fe High, and now there’s hope of closer games and perhaps some victories, to bring a good turnout.
It’s a nine-game schedule that is not all that easy. These schools have a combined record of 64-40 from last season. There’s also a home game with 2-6A’s Clovis. There’s also a visit from 5A Roswell, which went 9-3 last year. With 2A power Escalante sandwiched in between Roswell and Clovis, the last three games are in Santa Fe. Escalante is one of the better small schools and lost in last year’s state final to Lordsburg.
Capital is another familiar foe, and the Demons take the short hop to their cross town rivals on Friday night, Sept. 8. In between this one is 5A Santa Teresa at home on Sept. 1, with road games at Roswell Goddard and Taos following this one.
That’s it a nine-game slate in the freelance division, with no post-season on the agenda. Santa Fe High is hoping that along with closer games, it will bring in more fans, will give the Demon faithful more optimism, and hopefully some victories.
Santa Fe High leads the series, 49-33-3, but the Horsemen have won the last eight in a neighborhood series that began in 1924, and is the fourth longest continuing high school rivalry in the state.
Fernandez begins his 16th season and has never lost an opener. He has only coached at his alma mater St. Michael’s and sports a record of 137-51, a .729 winning percentage.
The spotlight for the Horsemen’s offense falls on quarterback Antonio Gabaldon and four-position talent Joey Fernandez, Jr., both seniors and a combo that became chili-hot down the stretch of last season’s 9-4 run. Gabaldon is the arm, young Joey the hands.
You have to keep up with Fernandez, for he also operates at running back, wide out, punter and kicker. He became the go-to receiver last year, and Gabaldon was pleased with his main target.
Good players graduated, good players returned, so it’s just speculation at this time. There are 30 returning lettermen and a present roster of 47.
Starting 2-way end Lincoln Barker will probably not play in the opener. In practice, the 6-foot-1, 184 senior suffered a dislocated elbow and was taken to the hospital. Now he has a cast on the elbow, and it’s a day-to-day situation.
Back from a knee injury last year is junior wide out, cornerback Luke Kastendieck, and that’s the good news. Of the running backs, there’s presently Fernandez, senior Miguel Montoya, sophomore Derek Roybal, and whoever shows well early on.
Neither team boasts of heavyweights, both have five players each over 200 pounds, with St. Michael’s big men being two-way senior tackle Miguel Arrellano (6-0, 263) and junior two-way tackle Tayo Regenold (6-1, 275). For the Demons, there’s 6-1 sophomore Trent Jones at 6-1, 240, and seniors Raul Garcia and Estevan Mendoza tipping the scale at 225 each.
Martinez, the defensive coordinator, has put together a staff of eight coaching assistants, with most of them familiar to Fernandez. Across from his sideline he will see the home team’s head line coach, Joaquin (Big Wax) Garcia, who was an assistant under him as well as head wrestling coach at St. Michael’s.
The linebackers and offensive line coach, Michael Gormley, was a starter for the 2012 Horsemen state champions. The running backs and safeties coach is Josh Roybal, a quarterback at St. Michael’s. There’s also Miguel Medina, the offensive coordinator, who was head coach at Espanola Valley.
Rounding out the staff are JoeRay Anaya (defensive line, quarterbacks), John Salazar (cornerbacks and receivers), Julio Cesar (corners and receivers), and Manual Gonzales (safeties and running backs).
Fernandez will have three new assistant coaches in his brother Matt
Fernandez, Jerry Archuleta and Mateo Rael. Plus, Joey Butler was promoted to defensive coordinator, taking over for now rival head coach Martinez.
The Horsemen, who didn’t receive their new uniforms until late last season, are still awaiting the new ones, but have yet to receive them.
After the opener, St. Michael’s has Capital High at home the following Saturday afternoon, than it’s at Moriarty Friday, Sept. 8. From there it’s a Saturday game at home versus Portales, a bye weekend, and a Saturday visit on homecoming, Sept. 30, from Bernalillo.
From there, it’s a trip up to Taos Friday, Oct. 6, followed by an afternoon contest against Pojoaque Valley, a Friday night, 7 o’clock kickoff at Las Vegas Robertson, Santa Fe Indian School at the Horsemen on Saturday, 1:30 p.m., and the regular-season finale at West Las Vegas on Friday night, 7 o’clock.
The District 2-4A schools with St. Michael’s are Robertson, West Las Vegas, Pojoaque, Taos, Bernalillo and SF Indian School.
For Santa Fe High, there won’t be any standings, league statistics or the post-season, but it’s a new look and whatever the season brings is unknown.