Farmington has its eye on repeating as district champions despite losing nine seniors
FARMINGTON — As is the case with all upcoming high schools sports seasons in 2016 and the spring of 2017, the new year in boys soccer will be highlighted by the reclassification of many San Juan County schools.
Coaching changes and, in Kirtland Central's case, the return of a varsity soccer team after a nearly decade-long hiatus make for some notable story lines as teams prepare to start a new season this week.
Coached by Noel Camacho, KC joins former District 1-4A rival Bloomfield in the new-look 1-5A, where they'll battle Aztec and Farmington on a more consistent basis. Kirtland Central hasn't had a team in "at least seven years," according to Camacho, who said mass interest in bringing the sport back sparked a change.
"There were some kids that were interested at Kirtland High School who petitioned to start a new team last year, and that's actually what kicked it off," Camacho said. "The kids basically presented their petition to the school district, and they were able to start up a new program."
Camacho's son, Marco, who is a senior, has been playing since ninth grade and is one of the only players on the team with much experience. He will be depended on as one of the team leaders.
Bloomfield coach Scott Reid is entering his second year with the school after guiding the Bobcat varsity squad to a 7-14 record last year in 1-4A. Gone from the team are Samuel Gutierrez and Edgar Fonseca, which will be a tough blow to the Bloomfield offense — Gutierrez and Fonseca accounted for 35 of the team's 42 goals last season.
Of the team's 14 losses in 2015, six came in one-goal games. Reid said the difficult losses have made him look at the off-season in a different light.
"I think a lot of what I took from last year, and what I've implemented in the summer this year, is just finishing games," Reid said. "Putting in that extra effort in the weight room and putting that extra effort in a run, so that guys know the last two or three minutes is when they need to push the hardest."
Bloomfield and Kirtland Central both open their season Friday in the Aztec Invitational. KC squares off with Aztec at 10 a.m., while Bloomfield plays Lovington at 2 p.m.
Farmington and Aztec are going through their own brand of change this summer. The Scorpions lost nine seniors from a district-winning team that finished 15-5-2 a season ago.
Two of those seniors — Andrew Moss and Joaquin Gonzalez — finished third and fourth, respectively, in points in the district. Fifth-year coach Byron Farnsworth said this year's roster will look a lot different than the ones he's coached in the past five years.
But the Scorps will have Yosmar Ruiz to lean on offensively. The junior put up 56 points last year, which ranked second behind Aztec's Bailey Watkins.
Farmington's first game will be at home on Aug. 26 against Sandia Prep. As far as the newcomers to 1-5A go, Farnsworth said he'll treat every opponent on the schedule like a state champion.
"Basically we hand the boys a schedule out at the beginning of the year, and it doesn't have who we're playing or anything, it just has dates and times," Farnsworth said. "So regardless of who we're playing, we're taking them seriously and training like we're in a state championship game every single day."
The Aztec soccer team had its world flipped upside down when former head coach Stephen Scales stepped down due to personal reasons just a week before the season started. Though it figures to be a hectic start to the season, the program looks to be in good hands with Stephen Parks now in control.
Parks led the Aztec girls soccer team to a pair of runner-up finishes in the state tournament during his nine years as head coach of the team, from 2006-2014. Despite his sudden return to coaching Aztec soccer, he said he's excited to get going with his new team.
"I did get a chance to work with the boys a little bit this summer, helping out, and I see the potential in them," Parks said. "I don't really have a lot of time for the normal getting-prepared-for-the-season type stuff. I'm just going to have to dive right into, 'This is the direction we're going, and we're gonna start working on it now.'"
Piedra Vista deals with coaching change, bump up to 6A
Yllescas has high hopes for this year's Panthers squad, but the school's reclassification to District 1-6A might curb some of his expectations. For now, the coach said he's just worried about what he can control.
"We have to make sure we're ready to compete. We've been doing conditioning four days a week, Monday through Thursday, this summer. That's a big step," Yllescas said. "My boys did a camp at Fort Lewis College in July, and that was a great experience for them. We even beat Farmington 4-2 in a scrimmage. It's been a good start for us."
A lot of eighth-graders will be joining the varsity squad this year, and that's contributed to PV's abnormally large roster of nearly 40 players. Yllescas said the enthusiasm toward boys soccer has been awesome.
"It's the first time we've had more boys than girls in a long time," Yllescas said. "It's always been the opposite."
PV will also take part in the Aztec Invitational, taking on Miyamura at 10 a.m. Friday.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.