BLOOMFIELD — Last year's District 1-4A football champions aren't intimidated by the shift to a more competitive 1-5A. Instead, third-year coach Bob Allcorn and his Bloomfield players are just focused on playing their brand of football and seeing where that takes them.
The Bobcats rushed their way to a 9-2 record last year and a fifth consecutive postseason berth. This season, Bloomfield will duke it out with the likes of Farmington and an old foe in Aztec as it tries to keep that playoff streak alive.
Allcorn said he and his players aren't fretting too much about playing in a new district.
"I think the challenge (of moving to 5A) is more for the community than the kids," Allcorn said. "I think a lot of times, the community thinks facing Farmington and some of the other schools is too tough of a challenge, and I don't think it is. It's where we belong, and our goal of winning a district championship remains the same."
Bloomfield's bread and butter is running the football, but without its top three rushers from a season ago — JD Robinson, Chauncey White and Brendan Ramsey combined for 2,142 yards before graduating — the ground attack is a bit of a question mark this year.
Senior and third-year starting quarterback Brendon Charley has shown he's capable of leading the offense. In 2015, he tossed 16 touchdowns and just one interception. After attempting only 119 passes last season, Charley said he could have a more prominent role in the wake of the losses in the backfield.
"I feel like we might actually mix in more passing this year just based off all the stuff we've been doing this summer," Charley said. "In some of the seven-on-seven games we were in, we definitely mixed in some more passing. I feel like it's going to be pretty balanced."
Whether the Bobcats lean more on the run or the pass this season depends on the opponent, according to Allcorn. Either way, he said he has liked what he's seen out of his offense as training camp nears its end.
"If we had to get into a game where we need to throw a lot, I feel like we can do that," Allcorn said. "If it works better to run, we can do that, as well. I think we should have a really good offensive line, and I think we've got kids who have matured from a year ago."
Robinson's presence wasn't just felt on offense last year for the Bobcats, as the fiery linebacker's 82 total tackles ranked first on the team. He will be missed, but the two middle linebackers being plugged into Bloomfield 3-4 defense for 2016 figure to hold their own.
Junior Michael DeHerrera and sophomore Angelo Atencio are tackle machines, and Allcorn has high hopes for them both. DeHerrera racked up 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks in eight games before breaking his leg during pregame warm-ups versus Zuni last year. Atencio managed 80 tackles in his freshman season.
"Angelo is one of those kids who works hard all the time. He's definitely a veteran but only a sophomore, and that's not a bad thing to have," Allcorn said. "I think Michael's got a tremendous upside. He's got great speed, he's gotten a lot bigger. If he can stay disciplined, he'll definitely be a force to be reckoned with."
Atencio, who will also play a lot of fullback, said he felt like Bloomfield's defense bent but didn't break in 2015, giving up a fair share of yards but keeping teams out of the end zone when it needed to. He thinks this year's defense will be much stingier.
"We should be stronger this year just because we've got smarter and faster players on the field," Atencio said. "Rudy Vigil's another good linebacker for us, and I like our safeties, Kyle Burkholder and Diego O'Neill."
The season gets started for Bloomfield on Friday, when the team visits 5-5A's Belen, which went 3-7 a season ago. Senior offensive and defensive lineman Anthony Madrid said he's confident his team can reach the coaching staff's goal of another district title, even if it is in a tougher district.
"I think we're still going to be right there at the top, doing our thing, winning games," Madrid said. "I'm sure we're going to have a lot more challenges, but we'll take care of it."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.