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Colt football preps for season opener

2017 Colt Football


NMMI Sports Press

The Colt football team is gearing up for the start of their season, with a road game vs. Fort Sumner on Friday, Aug. 25 slated to officially kickoff the 2017 campaign.

Under seventh-year head coach Randy Montoya, the Colts have made four straight state playoff appearances, and with a crop of 22 returning players – 12 of whom had varsity playing experience last season – coach Montoya hopes to continue that streak.

“We have 51 kids total on the roster for both varsity and JV programs,” said coach Montoya. “About 30 of those will travel with our varsity – a fairly even split. Lots of good quality kids coming up from the JV program. We just need more practice and more reps. We have lots of growing to do. We’re pretty young, especially in the backfield”

Returning seniors include Gavin Maloney, Connor Roe, Hugo Varela, Ryan Houston, Tomas Mondragon and Carl Forkel – all of whom played extensively for the Colts last year.

“We do have Maloney returning at quarterback. That’s exciting, as he can do some things that we haven’t been able to do in the past. He’s been in the system for four years now. I can give him a little bit more of a free reign to make some decisions as he sees certain situations – I trust him in that.” With a 6-foot3-inch and 200 pound frame, Maloney will likely be one of the primary ball-carriers, but is also a more-than-capable pocket passer.

Houston, despite his smaller stature (5’6”, 160 lbs.), played deep-snapper and O-line for the Colts last season. This year, however, coach Montoya wants him in the backfield. “We moved him back to the fullback position, to try and get another solid blocker out of the backfield. He’s quick and a good leader, so hopefully he’ll be able to scoot through that line and get a few yards as well,” said coach.

Varela stands in at 6-foot 2-inches and 220 pounds. “Hugo is our starting center and will be going both ways,” Montoya said. “We’ll rely heavily on him to anchor those offensive and defense fronts.”

Mondragon (6’0”, 225 lbs.) is another returning senior who will also play both ways in the trenches. “He’s got a bit of an injury right now,” explained the coach “but we’re hoping he gets well and gets back to us in the next few weeks. When he does, he’ll be a big part of that offensive and defensive front.”

“Another returning senior is Carl Forkel [6’1”, 200 lbs.]” continued Montoya. “He’ll start both ways offense and defense, probably a majority of linebacker on defense.”

The final returning senior is Connor Roe (6’1”, 160 lbs.).  “Connor will be our starting wide receiver and defensive back,” said Montoya. “He’s a four-year cadet and had a good season last year. We’re expecting good things from him and hoping that he can build on that previous success.”

Because of a lack of depth and experience in the backfield, on both sides of the ball, coach Montoya plans to simplify the offensive and defensive schemes this season. “Due to the fact that we are so much younger in the backfield, we’re going to primarily stay in the ‘I’ formation on offense, rather than the four-back diamond of years’ past. We’ll spread it out every once in a while, too. On defense, we’re going to run a split 4-4; mostly just trying to simplify some things for these kids. Sometimes as coaches we overthink things too much.”

The Colts got to try out those new schemes in a controlled, four-way scrimmage last weekend in Portales. There Montoya, his coaching staff, and his players learned just how far they have to go to get up to speed.  Said coach, “The first team played was Texico. They always have a solid program. It was a good matchup: both defenses did really well and both offensives had their sparks and ups and downs. Then Portales came in and they were a whole lot quicker, team speed wise. We had to step up our game and it was good for our kids to see that level of play. Then came Eunice, and play was even faster, probably the overall best team speed that we saw. They got around the corner on us very easily, which was disappointing, but showed us something that we definitely need to work on.”

Montoya further explained what he meant about team speed: “Portales showed us very quickly in our scrimmage the difference of speed that is needed and present at this level, and how much faster we need to be. Not so much in terms of the speed of individual players, but more as far as team or game speed: getting off the ball quickly, knowing your assignments, getting to your block faster and maintaining it, playing with more enthusiasm.”

The Colts will need that ‘team speed’ come district play, which begins at home on Oct. 6 vs. Ruidoso.

“Of course our district is always extremely tough,” emphasized the coach.  “Two out of the past three years, the state champion has come out of our district. I think for the most part we hold our own during the district season, considering the level of competition. No doubt, it’s going to be another tough year, come district play, but we’ll worry about that later on down the road. Right now, we’re worried about Fort Sumner. They’ve got the majority of their kids back and they went to the state championships last year. They are a well-coached team and we’ll have our hands full with that first game of the season. We’ll just do the best we can each week and take it game by game.”

That first district game will also be part of NMMI’s Cancer Awareness Week and the ‘Cadets for the Cure’ campaign. “It’ll be a big game, a big week, a great cause, and a great chance for our cadets to help out our community,” said Montoya, who is helping the athletic department organize various activities during the week. “We are excited about it and special thanks to all the people who have been helping put all of this together.”

Lady Colts fall to Gateway in season opener

In the first set, NMMI’s Mia Walker looks to get her attack past the block set by Gateway’s Savannah Fox. Photo courtesy – Laura Brown.


Tanner Hightower-Wilson, NMMI Sports Press

Back row overhand by Alyssa Bolander. Photo courtesy – Laura Brown.

The Lady Colt volleyball team opened up their season against Gateway Christian on Monday evening at the Warrior Gymnasium.

NMMI took an early lead in game one and never lost it, winning the first set 25-21.

Thanks to a late serving run by Alyssa Bolander, NMMI coasted to the finish, taking the momentum into the second set.

Head Coach Stephanie Schooley said, “Alyssa has been playing with us for several years now and she is one of my most consistent players on the court. She stepped up tonight and that’s what we needed.”

Kill attempt by NMMI’s Mia Walker. Photo courtesy – Laura Brown.

However, the momentum would not last as the Warriors took game two, 25-15, also never surrendering the lead throughout the entire set.

In set three, NMMI broke out to an early 10-4 lead, but the Lady Warriors countered with a massive run of their own. With the Lady Colts down by ten, Bolander had another service run, allowing the Lady Colts to pull within five points of the Warriors, 22-17. However after several Institute errors, Gateway won game three, 25-21.

Game four was filled with several runs by both teams.

Dee Ulibarri with the dig after a Gateway kill attempt. Photo courtesy – Laura Brown.

The match continued back and forth finally reaching a tie score of 19-19. Both teams were zoned in as they rallied for the momentum and the 20th point. Gateway took that point – and eventually game four and the match – 25-22.

“We had a lot of dropped balls,” said coach Schooley. “Just miscommunication. I told the girls that they have to trust each other and we really have to focus on playing with a purpose. Every pass, set and hit needs to have a purpose intended, not just to get a hand on the ball, but to actually get it to somebody so we can make a play out of it.”

Rilan Maloney goes up for the attack. Photo courtesy – Laura Brown.

The Lady Colts will have their second consecutive game on the road Tuesday against Hondo at 5:30 PM.

NMMI will host their first home game of the 2017 season against the Hondo Eagles on Tuesday, August 29th.

In the JV match, the Lady Colts lost 2-0 to the Lady Warriors.

 

Kill shot by Grace Tompkins. Photo courtesy – Laura Brown.

Abigail Valadez with the bump pass. Photo courtesy – Laura Brown.

Team unity key to Colt soccer as season gets underway

As is the case every year, the Colt soccer team is set to start their season with only a few practices under their belt. But that doesn’t mean coach John Barbour and new assistant Dewayne Roberts aren’t looking forward to getting started.

“We’re just excited,” Barbour said. “We want to see how we are with everybody else. We know communication is going to be a downside and our conditioning, but we’ll get there. I think by the time district starts we’ll be ready to go and hopefully even before that. We’re going to do what we can to compete with everybody and hopefully pick up some victories.”

This year’s crop of Colts —which numbers about 35-40 players, with less than a dozen returners — was initially slated to start the season on Tuesday against 5A Goddard. However, that match has been pushed back to Thursday, Sept. 21. Instead, Barbour and his Colts will get a few more precious practice sessions before hosting 4A rival Socorro this coming Saturday, Aug. 26. at 3:00 P.M.

But for most of the pre-district season, the Colts will be playing up, against 5A and 6A teams – and Barbour said that’s OK.

“What’s the point of holding back? There’s no reason to just play defensive. If you’re going to go for it, you’ve got to go for it. We’re looking for a good game. We go to their place, so it won’t be easy, but I think they’ve got some young guys as well, so we’ll hope for the best. ”

With less than three week’s practice before that road opener, Barbour said his squad is mostly working on the fundamentals, including first touch, passing and conditioning, but also just getting to know each other.

“We’ve got to be getting better at communicating, because that’s always a problem. Most of the kids at the other schools have grown up together, but these guys have known each other for about 10 days. If they can at least know each other’s names, I’ll be happy with that. If I can get to know their names, I’ll be happy,” he laughed. “But it’s just communicating; getting their skills back, because a lot of them probably haven’t played during the summer; shaking the cobwebs off but also getting into match fitness and getting conditioned.”

With the team just learning who everyone is and what they can do, the coach is still figuring out who will play where. One of the names that stood out last year and should again this year is Martin Ahumada, the senior cousin of NMMI’s recording-setting scorer, Everardo Ahumada.

“Good defender. Very quick,” Barbour said of the fullback. “He may actually move up front so he may beat his cousin’s record. We’ll see.”

The keeper position is always key, and this year the Colts are looking at two possibilities, starting with senior Juan Bellot Burke.

“He’s got great hands,” the coach said. “He hasn’t played for a long time, so we’re having to kind of work that out, but we’ve also got a freshman, Allen Varela, who’s looking really promising. Varela’s communication with the back four is really, really good. Those two aree going to have to battle it out a little bit, and we’ll see who ends up at that spot.”

This season, there are also four Lady Colts on the squad — Frida Antopia, Miranda Garcia, Frida Ruizesparza, and Samantha Steadman  — with Antopia likely getting some playing time on the varsity squad.

“They want to play,” Barbour said. “So we’re going to give them that opportunity and I would imagine at least two of them on the JV side will probably be starting, but we’ll have to wait and see how that all plays out. There’s a lot of guys and gals who are vying for those starting positions, and that’s going to depend on effort, attendance, ability, and all that.”

Whoever sees time on the field will be seeing tough competition. Besides Goddard, the Colts will square off against 5A Roswell, Artesia and Lovington; 6A Clovis; and a mix of 5A and 6A schools at the Coyote Classic Sept. 1-2. But Barbour wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s a good test,” he said. “If you can play with the 5A and 6As, then it gives you kind of a good start when you’re going into the 3As and 4As and you feel like you’ve really got a chance against them. It’s tough competition, but you’re not going to get better if you don’t test yourself.”

And the Colts will need to be prepped when they open district Sept. 16.

“Hope Christian is definitely the front runner,” Barbour said. “But Moriarty’s no slouch. I think we split with them (last year.) Portales, always a good competition between us. You never know who’s going to win between our two teams. And then Ruidoso. They were very young last year so those kids are going to be a little older so I expect they’re going to be a little bit tougher.”

For the first time in four years, the Colts didn’t advance to the postseason last year, but it was close, just missing out on an at-large pick from the seeding committee, which easily could have happened, considering how close the win/loss records were for the lower-seeded teams.

“You hope for a helpful bid at times and sometimes you get unlucky as well,” Barbour said. “We’ll just take it as it comes and hopefully this year it’ll be a no brainer and we’ll win district and we’ll be able to go.”

And while the group is still getting to know each other — including coach Roberts, who’s an Eastern New Mexico grad with a solid background in soccer — Barbour said the team spirit is strong.

“They’ve kind of gelled quickly, more so than most teams I’ve had in the past. They seem a little closer. We’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out, but right now the spirits are high and they all seem to get along, despite the majority of them being new.”

Experienced Colt volleyball team ready to start season

The 2017 NMMI sports season kicks off Monday, with the Lady Colt volleyball team traveling just down the road to Gateway Christian. And while it may seem early, it’s not unusual for the high school netters.

“We’re usually the first ones out of the starting blocks to start our season,” said coach Stephanie Schooley. “But we’re excited to see where we are.”

The Institute will open with both varsity and JV games vs. the Warriors, bringing a team that includes five returners.

Seniors Grace Tompkins, Alyssa Bolander and Abby Valadez lead the way, with junior Demitra “D” Ulibarri and sophomore Mia Walker all expected to start.

Ulibarri will be setting; Walker in the middle; Tompkins hitting on the right and outside; Bolander on the right and back row as a defensive specialist; and Valadez in the back row and outside. But all five are skilled enough that could change.

“A lot of those girls will be able to play all the way around, if needed,” Schooley said.

The sixth starter is up in the air, but the first name mentioned is freshman Rylan Maloney, the sister of current and former Colts Gavin and Hayden Maloney.

“We’re going to try and see how she does in the setting position as well, opposite of Dee,” Schooley said. “Then we’ve got some new girls to the team, and we’re still trying to figure out what position we want to play them in.”

Those include senior Skyler Nunn, a new NMMI cadet; junior Keena Roberts, another new Colt; and junior Casey Day, who played JV last year.

With 21 athletes between the varsity and JV, a few of the younger players will get a chance to see action on the varsity if needed. But so far, Schooley is pleased with what she’s seeing despite less than two weeks of practice.

“The five returners to the varsity are really doing a good job of communicating with each other, and teaching the new girls that team bonding which is so important,” she said. “I know the skills of volleyball are just as important, but being able to communicate with each other on the floor is a battle in itself. I feel like the girls are starting to become a little bit more of a team. They didn’t even know each other’s names a week ago. So that’s a positive. I feel like we’re doing good with the communication.”

As far as the skills, “It seems like our plays are coming together,” Schooley said. “It’s just going to take some time for the girls who are playing in a different position from what they’re used to. We have some girls who’ve never played a specific position before, so they’re not used to switching – we’re still working on some of the basics and putting it all together with a pass, set and hit.”

With games Monday and Tuesday – Tuesday on the road, as well, at Hondo – Schooley will be able to see just what it is her squad still needs to work on.

“I really just want to see how all the girls can come together and just see where we are,” she said. “In practice, we can do things that look really good, and we have some things that look like, ‘Oh my goodness! Have we ever worked on that before?’ So it will be good just to be able to play another team and see how we deal with the added pressure. Gateway is always tough. They always play us tough, and it’s always a good first gauge of were we stand as far as our season.”

After the Warriors and Eagles, the Colts have a strong schedule that includes games vs. Loving and Lake Arthur; the Lady Warrior Invitational at Gateway; and home and away matches vs. two new squads: Vaughn and Mescalero.

“There’s a couple new teams in the mix that we’ll be facing, so we’re excited to have some changes in our schedule and see how we do against some fresh teams,” Schooley said.

With no district competition, the Lady Colts close the season on Oct. 5 the same way they start it: against Gateway. But while that game could be key to a winning season — last year’s Lady Colts were 8-7, with five- and four-game victories against GCS and Clovis Christian sealing the successful run — it’s also expected to be fun.

That final match for the Lady Colts will be a “Dig Pink” night, part of a series of several athletic events held in the month of October by Colt and Bronco teams to promote cancer awareness and raise funds as part of the “Cadets for the Cure” campaign.

“Hopefully, it’ll be a fun night for everybody but also can raise some awareness and some funds for a good cause.”

Colt baseball earns post-season accolades

Coach Steve Rogers talks with his battery – catcher Jake Guerrero and pitcher Gavin Maloney – during the Colts’ state quarterfinals game vs. Hope Christian on May 11, 2017.


NMMI Sports Press

The Colt baseball team may not have won the 4A state title, but they’re well represented in post-season honors.

Six NMMI players were named to the 4-4A All District team, led by seniors — and future Broncos — Jake Guerrero and Michel Hinojos, and junior Gavin Maloney, who each made the first team.

Head coach Charlie Ward, prior to the Colts’ state playoff game vs. Hope Christian.

“Our district was unbelievable,” said coach Charlie Ward. “We talked about them all season, with Moriarty, Hope, Ruidoso and Portales. Some great kids. We have a lot of respect for program and each player on these all-district teams.”

Guerrero made the team as a catcher, Hinojos an infielder and Maloney as a pitcher and outfielder.

“Those guys, you can’t say enough about them,” Ward said. “Key players on our team. They represented the team extremely well.

“Gavin, we have another year with him and it’s going to be exciting to have him back. What a gamer. What a player. So we look forward to having Gavin back. But Jake and Michel, what about them? They get to play college baseball for the Broncos and coach (Chris) Cook. We’re tickled pink to see them play this game of baseball. All those guys they’re well deserved all district.”

Three other Colts made the honorable mention squad: juniors Connor Roe, an infielder/utility player and Francisco Rivera, shortstop and catcher; and sophomore Alejandro Lopez, a second baseman/shortstop.

The Colts will also be well represented at the annual 1A-4A North-South baseball game in Rio Rancho June 9-10.

Michel Hinojos with the ground-rule double into the gap between center and right, plating a run in a big seven-run fourth inning for the Colts – game vs. Hope, May 11, 2017

Not only will Guerrero and Hinjos be competing, but Colt coach Charlie Ward will helm the South team.

The two easily made the made the squad on first team ballots, “So we’re very proud they had that opportunity,” the coach said.

They join three seniors from Portales and Ruidoso and one each from Moriarty and Hope Christian, along with players from Capitan, Cobre, Floyd, Lordsburg, Santa Rosa, Silver and Tularosa.

And Ward, who’s coached the North-South team twice before, is equally excited about coaching the “Dirty South” against the North team.

“We’re going to represent this league and the North-South as best we can,” he said. “We’ll play with class and we’ll respect the game, but they’re called “Dirty South.”

With several of his coaching staff tied up the weekend of June 9-10 and unable to attend, Ward will bring assistant coach Steve Rogers as well as invite other district coaches to join in the fun competition.

“I’m trying to ask any of the coaches from our district, because I have a lot of respect for those coaches and if they want to help it would make it awesome,” he said.“I’m going to have such great memories.”

The New Mexico High School Coaches Association sponsors the all-star weekend, which will be held at Rio Rancho High School. The three-game series is set for 7 p.m. June 9 and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. June 10.