Chieftains look to build on recent success with new hire


SHIPROCK — School officials at Shiprock High were drawn to Michael Switch’s experience at Oklahoma City football power Millwood High, hiring him to be the head coach of the Chieftains’ football program.

Switch previously served as Millwood’s co-offensive coordinator from 2001 to 2005, winning the state title in his first two seasons there.

“They’re rich in tradition in football. I’ve had the opportunity to coach kids who’ve gone to major Division I schools,” said Switch, who also served as quarterbacks coach, running backs coach and defensive backs coach at Oklahoma City’s Capitol Hill High during the 2000 season.

Switch takes over for Eric Stovall, who is now the head football coach at Newcomb after going 20-12 in his three years at Shiprock.

Switch, who spent the past two years as an assistant baseball coach at Shiprock and as Farmington's head girls basketball coach from 2010 to 2013, inherits a team fresh off back-to-back playoff appearances.

Central Consolidated School District athletic director Ben Tensay said today he wanted to prolong the football program’s recent success. He believes Switch can do just that.

“He’s very detail oriented (defensively). He’s really making sure that every dot is connected, wants to do everything as much as possible. He wants to involve everyone,” Tensay said. “He does (also) like to utilize a spread offense. I’m hoping that he stays there as long as he can.”

Millwood ran a two-back option offense, in which both the running back and fullback were heavily involved, while Switch coached there.

Switch, a history teacher at SHS, said he wants the Chieftains to run the ball a bit more often, using the inside lanes to get those easy 4- or 5-yard gains on first and second down to help set up quick passing routes on the outside corners.

“If we’re able to get in those situations, that’ll give us a lot more opportunities to pick up first downs,” Switch said.

On defense, Switch said he likes to bring added pressure, especially from the defensive ends and linebackers.

Switch also said he wants to prevent surrendering big plays and limit big gains on first and second down. That way, it’ll force opposing offenses to overcompensate in trying to make something happen.

“We want to have them work, keep them to where they’ll be in a situations where they’ll have to drive. We want to force turnovers and those type of things,” Switch said, adding he will come up with different pressure schemes to repeatedly collapse the pocket.

Shiprock, which also hired Nanel Walter to head up the athletic department, will compete as an independent in 2018, facing tougher foes such as St. Michael’s, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque High and Rio Grande.

Switch embraces that challenge, saying that victories against those squads would boost Shiprock’s morale for the long haul.

“It's an opportunity to use that as a measuring tool that we can grow in. It’s going to be a challenge,” Switch said. “We just want to continue building off of (Stovall’s success).”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.