By Arnie Leshin
His father just happens to be top of the heap record-wise among high school football coaches in the Santa Fe area.
That’s Joey Fernandez, head coach of his St. Michael’s alma mater program for 20 years, and before that, quite a football hero prior to the arrival of the younger Joey Fernandez who put together four stellar seasons for the Horsemen from 2014-2017.
Until you glance at the years he played, it might be puzzling when you see probable young Joey on the updated New Mexico High School Records list. Meanwhile, Coach Joey seeks a fourth state championship if it can first get past visiting, top-ranked, undefeated Raton in Saturday’s semi-finals at the Christian Brothers Athletic Complex.
Will young Joey be there? Most likely he will be sitting with his amigos or taking in the action on the sidelines, and don’t count on him bragging about the talented athlete he was at St. Michael’s. He was always quite modest, just wanted to play whether he was injured, trying to cover up an injury, and was just equally adept on both sides of the ball.
He also competed in track and field and in basketball at a time that his also-talented sisters were among the best in the state in sports, and like him, also modest and popular among the students.
And there’s no doubt he truly belongs on the state records charts. Three times, he’s there, with 1,415 receiving yards in one season, 2,631 career receiving yards, and a 5-star game against Moriarty in 2016 when he was good for 263 pass-catching yards threw the air.
He ranks ninth behind No. 1 Max Suazo of Taos who came away with 1,767 yards in 2011, and sixth behind No. 1 Parker Johnson of Ruidoso who played from 2011-2014 and was good for 4,718 receptions yards.
Landry Jones, the four-year starter at quarterback for then-powerhouse Artesia, is on all the passing yards list and then became the starter for the University of Oklahoma. He then played in the National Football League for several teams, as did Sam Bradford who quarterbacked the Sooners after him, and then came Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield (2017,)Kyler Murray (2018) and followed by Jalen Hurts, who settled for second place in 2019.
Where are they now, well Bradford and Jones are raising a family after letting go of football, Mayfield starts for the Cleveland Browns, Murray starts for the Arizona Cardinals, and Hurts starts for the Philadelphia Eagles.
And when it comes to state championships, Artesia’s Bulldogs have won the most, 30, followed by 18 won by Lovington, and 15 by Eunice. And all three are in quest of more state titles as they play this weekend. That is also the case with Jal, which has won 11 and plays Eunice for the state 2A championship Saturday afternoon.
Plus, Artesia is home to undefeated Farmington in 5A and in 4A, Lovington hits the road to Moriarty. And you can add Clovis Los Cruces, which has won state eight times and plays in 6A against Rio Rancho High Friday night.
For state championship appearances, Artesia has made 35, Eunice 24, Lovington 22, Jal 20, and Roswell Goddard, which plays at unbeaten Los Lunas in 5A, makes its 16th appearance.
There are other Horsemen on the list and a few former Santa Fe High players making it.
In tackles made, injuries cut short a man for all sports, Xavier Vigil, who from 2013 to 2016 was brutal on defense and a terror on offense, and in tackles made, he had 398 for his career and second to Darren Chavez of Santa Rosa, who had a total of 523 from 2015-2018. Most tackles in a game has David Romero of St. Michael’s in 1972 making 25 against Albuquerque Academy.
In most tackles in a season, there’s former St. Michael’s defender Gavin Walker with 148 in 2005, and fourth behind No. 1 Ayden Madrid of Bernalillo, who in 2019, came up with 172 tackles. In most interceptions in a season, former Horsemen Sam Merlino picked off a second-best 17 in 1972, with Thane Miller of Jal intercepting 20 in 1985.
Career-wise, Miller came down with 34 from 1981 to 1984, and in one game, Elroy Chopito of Zuni had six, while St. Michael’s two players with four each in Fabian Montoya in 1979 and Robert C de Baca in 2006.
On the list of most touchdowns scored in a game, there was former Horseman Jamal Brown scoring six versus Capital in 2002, and Robbie Castillo with six against Pojoaque Valley in 2003. Also with six was Anthony Abeyta of Santa Fe High versus Taos in 2011, while No. 1 is Ernie Perea of Los Lunas with 11 in 1967 against Wingate.
St. Michael’s also appears in most touchdowns in a season as Daniel Ortega ran for 28 in 2013, and most TDs in a career as former Horseman Russell Disch rushed for 54 from 2007-2010, and he also accounted for 4,478 rushing career yards from 2007-2010.
Three times Gavin Hardison of Hobbs had the No. 1 passing yards in a game when he compiled 629, 613 and 588, respectively in 2017, and he also threw for 534 that same season. In the most passing yards in a season, Hardison was again No. 1 with 5,347.
In most rushing yards in a season, that belongs to Ronnie Daniels of Albuquerque La Cueva 3,024, and David McGee of Laguna-Acuma leads in career rushing with 7,170. And most rushing game yards in a game has Cesar Quintana of Estancia with 504 versus Capitan in 2014.
In the field goals department, Dominic Gutierrez of Menual was good for nine in the triumph over Newcomb, and also had the most kicks in a career, In one season, 29. Albuquerque High’s Erik Hinterbichler was good for 17 in 2001, and the same year he also kicked five against Gallup and four versus Albuquerque Rio Grande.
Hinterbichler also had the most field goals in a career, 28, and further down the list is former Horsemen Matt Blea from 1984-1986. Tied with longest field goals of 58 are Lewis Reagon of Tucumcari and Scottie Gallardo of Alamongordo, and with 56 was St. Michael’s Santo Coppola against Capital in 2012.
Down the list in most touchdown receptions in a game, Aztec’s Harris and four others reeled in five. Four were brought down by Santa Fe High’s Anthony Ratliff against Albuquerque Valley in 2007.
Most passing yards in a career belong to Brett Hanson of Hatch Valley with 12,124, and he also has the most passing touchdowns thrown in a game with nine, and also most in a season with 70.
That’s all folks, it’s almost kickoff time.