Rusher, receiver, also head All-Conference picks
Being named First Team All-Southern Peaks Conference as well as Ignacio Football’s Co-MVP, fullback/linebacker Joe Garcia admitted that long before the 2019 season, his mind state wasn’t exactly on solid footing – knowing a medically-healed (involving screws, metal plates, and even a metal thread) leg injury had yet to be truly tested on the field.
“I was scared, kind of; when they finally told me I could play and that I’d be fine … . I wasn’t really trusting it,” admitted the junior, who’d suffered a vertically-split fibula plus tendon damage in his ankle during the Bobcats’ 2018 loss at 2A Newcomb, N.M. “I was scared to move on it, and it was a long process to trust it, know that it was strong again.”
“Then Ponch (head coach Alfonso Garcia) told me, that if I don’t go hard I’m going to be hurt again this season … and I believed him that it was true,” he continued. “I had to go hard.”
An off-season opportunity trying out for USA Football’s U.S. National Team, first at a Denver-area camp not long before the ’18-19 school year ended, afforded him extra motivation to do precisely that.
“I just got a letter right before May … about the National Team program. They wanted me to go out to a camp up in Denver, and once you made it past that you’d go on to Dallas – and after Dallas you’d make it to the ‘team,’” Garcia explained. “I worked out for that … all summer, just getting faster and stronger.”
“When I went to Dallas there was only two camps in the whole nation – in Canton, Ohio, and Dallas (the University of Texas at Arlington, to be exact), but it was a little bit harder because I wasn’t, like, in ‘football’ shape,” he recalled. “They went full-contact … and I was a little bit slower, playing with a bunch of guys that were super-good.”
Nonetheless, the experience, concluded in early July, proved invaluable with not only contests against SPC powers La Jara Centauri and Monte Vista again appearing on IHS’ schedule, but also rematches against 1A Tri-Peaks force Colorado Springs Christian and, yep, Newcomb also slated.
Through Ignacio’s first two games – an overtime win over the 4A Bloomfield, N.M., JV and loss to NHS – Garcia rushed for (unofficially) 142 yards on 32 carries with one touchdown. Well watched and mobbed by the stout defenses of CSCS, Centauri and MVHS later on, and held to single-digit yardage by each, he would ultimately total (unofficially) 325 yards on 105 tries with six scores. Figures from an 8-7 loss in Leadville to non-conference 1A Lake County, however, were not reported.
“It felt great,” he said, of having completed a journey worthy of not only the aforementioned honors, but likely a Comeback Player-of-the-Year Award if the conference offered one. “It was a lot of hard work, and it paid off.”
Senior wide receiver/defensive back Colten Jackson, however, would be a close contender for Comeback POY.
Back in action this year after an off-field shoulder injury cut short his 2018 season, and establishing himself as possibly the SoPeaks’ top deep-ball threat offensively as well as a leading ball-hawk defensively, Jackson shared IHS Most Valuable Player distinction with Garcia and was also a First Team All-SPC selection.
“We … seniors, we won’t go out unless we absolutely have to and can’t play anymore. We’ll keep playing even with injuries; we grew up as a class that took beatings from past seniors, so we became tough,” Jackson had said, following a season-ending, 2-for-58 receiving day – featuring a 55-yard TD catch, plus a 22-yard fumble-return TD – in a 53-21 loss at Centauri.
“It’s important to play with your boys. They’re more than family; they’re my brothers,” he continued. “I grew up playing with these boys – and I have actual family on this team, so that makes it better.”
With numbers from the LCHS game unavailable, Jackson’s 2019 receiving totals still stand at an impressive 331 yards on only 14 catches – an average of 23.6 yards per pop – with six touchdowns.
“I don’t think they were ready for my speed … quickness off the ball. And I don’t think they were ready for my hands,” he’d said after a three-catch, 111-yard, two-TD performance helping produce a 38-21 road win at Center.
Also named First Team All-Conference from Ignacio were seniors Clay Campbell and Stephan Gomez, while senior Ian Weinreich and junior Lawrence Toledo received Second Team All-SPC nods.
Utilized at quarterback, receiver, and multiple defensive positions, Weinreich was named as one of the Bobcats’ two Ironman Award winners along with Toledo, who saw time as a ball-carrier and receiver, as well as multiple defensive spots.
Sophomore offensive lineman/defensive end Mekhi Miranda was given IHS’ Hustle Award, for obvious reasons, and was also chosen Honorable Mention All-Conference.
“That man’s a beast; I’ve been trying to recruit him for wrestling, honestly!” sophomore Tyler Barnes had said midway through the season. “But he’s got the mentality of a football player, got the build of a football player and he’s always, always going. You never stop Mekhi, even in practice.”
SPC Coach-of-the-Year went to Kyle Forster, who directed Centauri deep into the Class 1A State Playoffs before the Falcons fell – for a third consecutive year – to Strasburg, Northern Conference champs, in the semifinals.
Finishing 12-1 overall, SHS lost the State Championship one week later at home to Limon (11-2).
Heading up Centauri’s six First Team All-Conference selections, senior quarterback Eric Maez was also named the conference’s Offensive Player-of-the-Year, while First Team pick and fellow senior Adam Chacon received Defensive POY after ending his prep days being credited with 18 total tackles against Strasburg.