Shiprock High football marches forward despite low turnout

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times
The Shiprock Chieftains football team will finish out their remaining 2021 fall season schedule, according to Central Consolidated School District athletic coordinator Mark Archuleta.

SHIPROCK — The Shiprock High School football team is winless through five games this season, was forced to forfeit a game on Aug. 28 against Crownpoint and hasn't scored a point this season.

The Chieftains football program has struggled much of the season due to low numbers of active players on their roster, according to Central Consolidated School District athletic coordinator Mark Archuleta. He says the team has no plans to cancel the remainder of the season, which continues Friday night at home in their district opener against Aztec.

"We're trying to keep everyone safe," Archuleta said. "We're following New Mexico Public Education Department guidelines as well as New Mexico Activities Association guidelines as well."

The Chieftains are planning to have nearly two dozen players on the field Friday night to face Aztec, but in a sport where 11 players are on the field at any given point in time during a game, that opens an opportunity for greater risk of injury.

Shiprock’s Trevor Etcitty cuts up the middle on a kick return against Navajo Prep during a 2019 football game at Eagle Stadium in Farmington.

"We're in good shape in terms of numbers," Archuleta said. "It may have been an issue with fewer players than that a few weeks ago, but the numbers are better now."

Shiprock High School released a statement Thursday, Sept. 23 notifying parents and staff about a confirmed COVID-19 case involving a student or faculty member of CCSD, but Archuleta denied that had any impact on the football team or the athletic departments at Shiprock High School.

In addition to following guidelines put forth by the New Mexico PED and the NMAA, there are additional health protocols and procedures for CCSD set by the Navajo Nation Department of Health which must be adhered to as well.

According to the latest figures released by the NNDOH, the most recent 7-day average (through Sept. 26) of confirmed COVID-19 cases is at nearly 34, with more than 4,500 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic ranging in ages from 10-19 years old.

Archuleta confirmed that it was a collaborative effort for CCSD to follow not only state guidelines, but also Navajo Nation health orders as well.

"People want to dissect the whole thing," Archuleta said. "We're always cognizant of both the state and the Navajo Nation procedures."

The Aug. 28 football game against Crownpoint was forfeited when the Chieftains couldn't field enough players for a game. Shiprock head coach Anthony Clah knew coming into this season, that in spite of a winning record during an abbreviated spring campaign earlier this year, it would be tough on the team to be competitive during this season.

"Players aren't coming out because (coronavirus) is still hanging around," Clah said back in August. "We have lower numbers because some kids might not even be aware that we're starting back up, so we're trying to get the word out."   

The Chieftains have been outscored 214-0 in the four games in which they've played this season. Their most recent outing, on the road at Newcomb on Friday, Sept. 24, resulted in a 42-0 loss to the Skyhawks. 

Archuleta stated that he didn't believe sports would be forced to be cancelled later this year or into next year at Shiprock High School. The boys and girls basketball seasons, oftentimes very popular sports for the school, are set to get underway at the end of next month, and Archuleta was confident that both programs would be on schedule.

"We're moving forward, assessing it week by week," Archuleta said. "There's different factors involved and of course, just trying to keep everybody safe."

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680