It has been an off-season of transition for the Socorro football team as the Warriors look to fill significant vacancies across both sides of the ball.
“I don’t think that since I’ve come back to coaching five or six years ago that I’ve had so many players to replace,” said coach Damian Ocampo. “We lost nine starting positions so it’s definitely a challenge. And all those starters were just great ball players.”
What’s more, many of the team’s leaders were unavailable for summer workouts as they fulfilled other responsibilities.
That, Ocampo said, actually has a silver lining as the Warriors had their largest turnout of new and younger players and provided an opportunity for them to get plenty of reps.
“We have young kids who are stepping up and a few kids who have had to move positions,” he said. “I think the kids know that they are working hard and hopefully we get better and get better quick.”
Still, ultimately by the time District 3-3A play rolls around in October, expect Socorro to be playing at its peak.
“We’re going to see here pretty quick what we’re made of and what adjustments we have to make,” Ocampo said. “We’re going to grow as a family and as a brotherhood and as a team. We’ll roll with the punches. We’d really like to repeat as five-time district champion for the first time in school history. Then we’d like to get in playoffs and compete for a state championship again. But there are a lot of pieces that have to fall into place for that to happen again.”
The Warriors efforts will begin with quarterback and defensive back Marcus Armijo (Sr., 5-foot, 10-inches, 155). A speed burner with a live arm, Armijo is a veteran leader, Ocampo said.
“He’s one of the best players in all of the state,” the coach said. “He’s been starting for us for years now. He’s a very good athlete, very good leader. He’s everything you want in a kid on the field, tough and we’re expecting huge things out of Marcus this year.”
He will have some new weapons around him, however, with Caden Moreland (OLB/RB/WR, Sr., 6-3, 200) and Brian Armijo (ILB/RB, Sr., 5-9, 155) both expected to see more time on the offense.
Moreland, “in my mind is one of the best in the state, all classes,” Ocampo said. “I think he would start for any team in New Mexico, that’s 6A on down. He plays the game the way it should be played. Very physical. He’s tough. He brings a tenacity to the field that gets the whole team going.”
And Brian Armijo “is a very special talent,” Ocampo said. “He’s probably the most electric inside linebacker. He runs sideline to sideline and he plays hard. He’s physical, tough.”
The Warriors are also expecting solid production from proven players like Xamian Aguilar (DL/OL, Sr., 5-9, 210), Damian Greenwood (DL/TE, Sr., 6-3, 190), Warren Kurtnacker (LB, Sr., 5-10, 200) and Garrick Gutierrez (LB/RB Sr., 5-10, 185).
Magdalena team hopes to translate basketball pedigree to success on the gridiron
At Magdalena, transition is the key word, as well, but in a far bigger sense as veteran coach Carlett “Danny” Daniels takes over the program.
“My expectations, especially coming in as a new coach and everything is we like to create some culture, football culture here,” he said. “We want to win our district and go to the playoffs and see how far we can go in the playoffs.”
Known as a basketball powerhouse, the Steers have plenty of talented players to fill out their roster for 8-man football, said Daniels, who played high school football and basketball at Ramah with Magdalena athletic director and boys basketball coach Jory Mirabal.
“I like the community,” Daniels said of Magdalena. “It seems like they have a rich sports culture. I’m used to seeing the boys do well in basketball and I just thought I could bring some of my experience and help the football program out. They’ve done well in the past, but maybe change some things and maybe go a little bit farther in the playoffs.”
The Steers have never won a state championship and their only championship game appearance came in 1989.
But the basketball program has won consecutive championships and many of the hoops players will be taking on the gridiron this season.
“With all that, championship pedigree, if we can translate that into football to where we’re not going to be scared of anybody and we’re going to hit back, I think we’re going to be fine.”
A big positive is quarterback Joshua Baca (Sr., 5-10, 160) will be entering his fourth season as starter. And he’ll have a significant player maker available in speedy athlete D’Shaun Vinyard (WR, Sr., 6-0, 155).
“We have a lot of experience, a lot of seniors,” the coach said. “We’ll be looking for them to help as leaders. The kids have a lot of speed. And so we’re trying different things, different systems to make sure we can use all of our athletes in a variety of different ways.”
Vinyard will be teaming Kael Stephens (WR, Jr., 6-3, 165) as a pair of wide outs that will give opposing defenses fits.
And Danny Pino (RB, Sr., 5-6, 150) adds elusiveness out of the backfield.
All the elements are there for a successful season, Baca said.
“We obviously want to win,” he said. “This year, we actually have gotten athletes, like D’Shaun and that’s real exciting because he’s going to help us out a lot. So our expectations are pretty high. We’re pretty skilled. We’re fast. We’re pretty tough. We’ll go after you, kind of like what you see when we play any other sport.”