July 10, 2012

New Mexico not represented in national ranking

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The state of New Mexico is not a major player in high school football rankings.

The Land of Enchantment has not had a team finish inside the final RivalsHigh 100 since 2008, when Las Cruces High closed the year at No. 100.

So it's no surprise that for the second consecutive year the state will not have a team start the season among the nation's elite when the Preseason RivalsHigh 100 poll begins its countdown on July 23.

While there might not be a team worthy of national recognition at the start of the year, that does not mean one will not emerge. Each of the last two seasons has seen at least one team from New Mexico gain recognition at one point during the rankings process: Albuquerque (N.M.) La Cueva in 2010 and Rio Rancho (N.M.) Cleveland in 2011.

Kyle Henderson, the publisher of NMPreps.com since 2006, believes there are three candidates that could emerge this season and all three are familiar names from the state: Las Cruces (N.M.) High, Las Cruces (N.M.) Mayfield, and Cleveland.

"Las Cruces is loaded," Henderson said. "With Taylor Tisby on the defensive line and Kamryn Dixon at tight end leading the way, this team will be tough to beat.

New Mexico Preseason Top 10
The top three teams in the state are all familiar names to the national scene, whether with team or individual talent. None are strangers to the spotlight. Just below that tier is a group of teams without the national cache that the big three seem to garner every year. But trust us, they can play, too.
No. 1 Las Cruces High
No. 2 Rio Rancho Cleveland
No. 3 Las Cruces Mayfield
No. 4 Roswell Goddard
No. 5 Albuquerque La Cueva
No. 6 Carlsbad High
No. 7 Rio Rancho High
No. 8 Albuquerque Eldorado
No. 9 Aztec High
No. 10 Albuquerque Manzano
"Mayfield has played in nine state title games since 2000. The team lost a ton to graduation however the defensive looks dominate in the offseason.

"Cleveland went 13-0 in 2012 and head coach Kirk Potter retired after the perfect season and his offensive coordinator Heath Ridenour takes over. The team returns Romell Jordan at running back, who had over 1,500 yards as a junior and is the defending 100M State Champ."

The dominance of the those three teams in recent years might be viewed as a weakness, but the ability for programs to reload with one of the thinnest talent beds in the country has been quite an accomplishment.

Henderson notes that the number of elite level athletes is always going to be a problem when comparing New Mexico to teams nationally.

"With a small population, it is tough for New Mexico programs to rebuild like neighboring states," he said. "New Mexico is not the type of state that is going to produce D-1 recruits from the same team year after year. Usually the same programs will be at the top."

The amount of prospects in New Mexico topped out in the Class of 2011, when the state had 10 Div. I signees. Last season, the state produced only three and there is currently only one athlete in the state with a Football Bowl Subdivision offer.

Henderson believes the level of play across the state is on the rise, even if the college recruiters haven't noticed. But he adds that the commitment to the product has not been embraced by the most populated areas.

"Overall talent is increasing," he said. "However New Mexico's largest city (Albuquerque) has not made any commitment to New Mexico high school football, which keeps top coaches out of the area.

"For example, Albuquerque has 14 high school football programs and has just two prep football stadiums. Also, head coaching stipends in Albuquerque are less than $10K no matter how good the program."

The state is also limited in raw numbers. It only has 98 teams playing 11-man football.

From there it is broken down into five classes -- a number that is seen as too many by Henderson.

"New Mexico has just over 100 total teams," he said. "Yet we have 6-man, 8-Man, and 11-man classes, which makes for watered-down football in most classes."

It also can hurt the perception of the state.

What doesn't change, at least for Henderson, is the team at the top.

"Las Cruces is our preseason No. 1-team regardless of classification because of their superior offensive and defensive line," he said. "They certainly have the overall talent to run the tables in 2012. A tough schedule awaits, including a Week 1 opener with an athletic El Paso (Texas) Chapin team.

"Overall they are the most talented team heading into the 2012 season and the dominance up front will be the difference."

PRESEASON RIVALSHIGH 100 COUNTDOWN: The official schedule of release dates


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