Without football, here's how high school coaches are planning to spend their fall

Matthew Asher and Matt Hollinshead, Farmington Daily Times
Eric Stovall, seen here coaching Newcomb during the Skyhawks' Homecoming game against Lordsburg on Saturday, September 21, 2019, at Skyhawk Stadium in Newcomb, takes over as Aztec's football coach.

From summer workouts to the final whistle of the championship game in late November or early December, New Mexico high school football requires hours of dedication on the practice field and watching game film.

But now the COVID-19 pandemic forced the New Mexico Activities Association to postpone high school football until early 2021, coaches who typically don't plan on fall activities outside of football have a lot more time on their hands.

Coaches did say they plan on keeping in touch with their players online via Zoom and other other video conference software, but they aren't planning on doing daily updates with their teams.

Coaches also plan on picking up new hobbies or simply spend more time with friends and family, under the assumption there aren't travel bans.

Here's what coaches across the state are planning to do in the coming months.

Rex Henderson, Artesia

Artesia is used to deep playoff runs year in and year out.

Henderson knows in order for his athletes to be able to play in the spring, they have to be serious about their education in the fall.

"We want to keep students engaged and make sure they keep their grades up," Henderson said. 

While he's not planning to travel across state lines, Henderson said he would like the opportunity for he and his wife to see family in Texas. If traveling isn't an option, however, he's fine with getting work done around the house. 

"I want to catch up on the things that always need to be done that don't seem to get done when you're coaching," Henderson said. "I'm not taking up any new hobbies. I've got enough things I need to get done that will take up my time. That and keeping my son entertained."

Eric Stovall, Aztec

Aztec's new football coach plans to spend more quality time with his wife and daughter. He also wants play golf at the different courses, from San Juan Country Club and Piñon Hills Golf Course in Farmington to Riverview Golf Course in Kirtland, to keep himself busy.

“In the whole county, we’re very fortunate to have those courses available to us,” Stovall said.

Stovall also plans to spend Thanksgiving watching football on TV if the 2020 season takes place.

“That’s something we’ll enjoy doing as well,” Stovall said.

From teaching and golf to spending time with family, Stovall’s confident he can prevent chronic boredom.

“We’ll make the most of it," Stovall said.

Tyler Finch, Loving

The Falcons' first-year coach wants this first semester to be about academics. While Finch plans on having video meetings with his players, he wants them to focus on their education.

"We're pushing quality education and focusing on that," Finch said. "Hopefully we'll get to go back to the hybrid model but with everybody online now we want to support that and make sure our kids understand the value of that, not just for their GPA but for earning credits. Education comes first."

A father of three children, Finch hopes to travel to the Albuquerque and Farmington areas this year to see his family, something his children haven't had much of this year.

"It's been a tough year in general," Finch said. "All my kids are under five and they haven't seen their cousins or grandparents. It's been hard on them. I'd love it for the whole family to get together for Thanksgiving if that's possible."

Finch doesn't plan on picking up any new hobbies, but will spend time with his family, riding bikes and other activities he considers "quality time."

Jared Howell, Piedra Vista

Without football, Howell said he’s found time to do work in his backyard at home, add appliances to his kitchen and go mountain biking.

“It actually was a nice experience so far,” Howell said, adding he just bought a new bike on Sunday.

Howell said he’s considering seeing his 81-year-old mother, Bella, in Oklahoma sooner rather than later so he can get the 14-day quarantine period out of the way earlier.

“She doesn’t know how to do Zoom,” Howell said.

Howell also said he’s trying to figure out a plan to allow his son Garret to start college at New Mexico State University, whether online or by a hybrid learning approach.

But like millions of Americans, financial concerns are the family’s main roadblock.

“I want him to go, but may have to be ready to wait at least a semester or two to begin because it’s a big budgetary deal,” Howell said.

Kief Johnson, Ruidoso

With Ruidoso doing on online classes only for the first nine weeks of the school year, the Warriors coach said he will have occasional Zoom meeting with his players to make sure his athletes know the playbook and are ready for practices in 2021.

Johnson himself looks forward to accompanying his wife in hunting elk in October.

"I can't hunt the elk, but I can carry her bags," Johnson joked.

Johnson also plans to see his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in early November.

The NMAA currently has the football season scheduled to start on Feb. 22, 2021, with the state championships taking place in late April and early May.

Matthew Asher covers sports for the Carlsbad Current-Argus. He can be reached at 575-628-5524, or @Caveman_Masher on Twitter.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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