MESCALERO – Last season, Mescalero’s eight-man football team made the playoffs for the first time in the school’s history.
This season, coach Leonard Velasquez wants the Chiefs to win that first playoff game.
Mescalero was 4-7 last season in an expanded eight-man playoff, falling to District 3 foe Cloudcroft, 48-6.
Their only district win last year was against Tatum, but all the teams this season will likely be tough.
Still, Velasquez knows that’s who his team has to play if they want to get better themselves.
“Last year, our goal in the first five games was to be at least 3-2, which we did,” Velasquez said. “We knew that going into our district, it was going to be tough. It’s no change this year.
“Melrose is on that schedule, they’ll be tough, and We need to play those top-tier teams in order to get to where they’re at,” he added. “If we play like we can, we should do well.”
There are plenty of players to put on the field, including seniors Alex Kaydahzinne and Matias Lapaz.
Actually, those are the only seniors returning, but there’s still some experience on the squad.
Experience from players like junior Aloysius Comanche, who’ll be at his familiar spot of linebacker this season.
“There will be some rebuilding. We lost some good skills kids from last year,” Velasquez said.
There were a lot of players that signed up in May to do offseason work, but Velasquez said it’s always a struggle to keep that many kids focused on one thing.
“There’s a lot of things going on, and they have to pick and choose where they’re going to go, day in and day out. We had a lot of kids sign up, and if we get two-thirds of those numbers, we’ll be in pretty good shape.
“We have a lot of players that played last year, and we have like 15 freshmen,” he added. “That’s a good start, and we can build a good program if they stay in it.”
The players aren’t the only ones Velasquez is excited to see back and Mescalero. In addition to his brother, David, assisting him in coaching, the Chiefs also have former head coach Godfrey Cordova back to help with the line and keep things running smoothly.
There’s also Charlie Saavedra, Jr., whose father is superintendent of Mescalero Apache Schools and who played his college ball at ENMU in Portales. Zach Flowers will be at the middle school, while Kendall Mithlow joins the staff after graduating from Haskell Indian Nations University.
“My staff is now football oriented, and that will help a lot with the x’s and o’s of the game,” Velasquez said. “It’s not me doing all the coaching. I can actually be a head coach.”