FARMINGTON — The Farmington Scorpions won the school's first football state title in 61 years last season, but that's all in the past for Gary Bradley's bunch as his squad has its attention squarely focused on the challenges it will face during 2014.
The Scorps enter the new year with new faces in the backfield after the graduation of quarterback Jacob Lucas and running back Brian Farley.
Bradley will call upon junior Diego Elebario to replace Lucas under center, while senior Chayton Salcido will get more carries at the running back spot.
"We've all played the position for a long time, and we've all been playing together for a long time, so we have that connection just like last year," Salcido said. "I have my line with me, and I think they're even better than last year."
While FHS has to replace six of their seven all-state players from last year, Bradley is confident every player coming into a starting role will be able to fill in and pick up where their predecessor left off.
"We've got plenty of experience coming back. It's high school football, so we lose great guys every year," Bradley said. "But those guys under them — the juniors and some sophomores — are ready to step in. Hopefully that's the sign of a great program and that we're on that path. Every year is a little bit of a mystery. I guarantee we have some leadership. It's quiet leadership and more leadership by example, but they're definitely ready to roll."
Defense was the Scorps calling card during their title run as they held their opponents to less than a touchdown per game. FHS will rely heavily on their lone returning all-state player, Champ Mendoza, along with Deangelo Phillips to eat up blocks and allow the linebackers to make plays.
"I think we all have to work together and have the intensity and mindset to just shut a team out," Phillips said.
FHS will face two of last year's 4A semifinalists — Los Lunas and Belen — in the first three weeks of the season. The Scorps earned a 14-7 victory over Belen to advance to the 4A title game. Those early season contests will give FHS a good idea of where they stand within the state.
FHS will also take on Durango, Colo., the only team that beat them during the title run, on Sept. 19.
The Scorps will enter the year as the 5A preseason No. 1 in the NMPreps rankings and No. 2 in the MaxPreps rankings, but just like last year, the team says it isn't paying attention to standings or rankings and will concern itself with the next opponent on the schedule.
"We're preparing for the season. We're looking forward to the first game, because it's the first game. It's the most important game of the season, and it happens to be against Los Lunas, who has been one of the top teams in the state the last few years," Bradley said. "We've got our hands full, and it's all about Los Lunas."