FARMINGTON — The District 1-4A champion Shiprock football team will send five seniors to play in next year's 3A/4A North-South All-Star game as members of the North squad.
The game, reserved for seniors of the past high school season, takes place on Friday, June 9, 2017, at the Nusenda Community Stadium in Albuquerque. Two seniors from Navajo Prep are also on the North team.
The 5A/6A North-South game takes place at the same location on either Monday, July 24 or Wednesday, July 26, and former cross-city rivals Elijah Gamboa and Sol Rascon will be North teammates in that contest.
Gamboa was the quarterback for the recently reclassified 6A Piedra Vista Panthers last season, but he was deadliest on foot, racking up 366 rushing yards and eight touchdowns as a runner in his senior year. He added 422 passing yards and another TD through the air.
"He was a legit third back for us," PV coach Jared Howell said. "People had to load the box, then we were able to throw the ball on them."
A core player for Howell's Panthers the past couple of seasons, Gamboa was one of the coach's toughest kids.
"He led the team by demonstration and by toughness," Howell said. "We had a lot of physically tough kids, and he was among the toughest."
Gamboa also played cornerback for PV. Howell said he thought the senior was such a good athlete that he could have thrived anywhere defensively.
Farmington's Rascon was a player who rarely left the field for coach Jeff Dalton's Scorpions. Whether he was catching passes as QB Kody Becenti's preferred target or slowing down opposing teams' rushing attacks as a strong-side linebacker, Rascon was one of the most valuable players FHS had on its roster last season.
"It's a huge honor for Sol, and I'm super proud of him for getting that," Dalton said. "It's a testament to his work. He was a guy that made plays when you needed him. It's a well-deserved recognition for him, and it means he'll get to play in at least one more game."
The Chieftains are well represented on the 3A/4A North roster, as seniors Steve Lara, Chance Harvey, Darnell Whitehorse, Adrian Gibson and Darren Harrison were all selected to the team.
Shiprock coach Eric Stovall said defensive coordinator Ronnie Armenta and the other Chieftain assistant coaches constantly put the five Shiprock all-stars in a position to succeed.
"The defense only allowed 12.9 points per game this year," Stovall said. "It's a credit to our coaching staff for creating a scheme that fits our kids and our kids for buying into it."
Contributing largely to that defense were Harvey, who had 66 tackles and 18.5 sacks, and Gibson, who intercepted seven passes. Whitehorse, Harrison and Lara combined for nearly 150 tackles.
"It's a combination of them taking ownership of their individual roles and knowing their roles so they could help each other," Stovall said. "Now they're going to get to go against the best of the best that 3A/4A has to offer. Some real quality competition. It's special to see the kids earn the honors they've earned."
Offensively, Lara was Shiprock's most explosive weapon, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and tallying 20 touchdowns. Gibson had seven touchdowns as a receiver for the Chiefs.
For Prep, offensive lineman Anthony Pioche-Lee and lineman-turned-running back Kemahya Curley earned the right to play alongside those five Chieftains in the June all-star game.
Curley had 410 rushing yards and six touchdowns last season, while the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Pioche-Lee made his mark on the game as the Eagles' most dependable lineman.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.