By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
The two-time defending Class 5A state champions La Cueva Bears still have the talent to add another title, but the graduation of a monsterly talented senior class has left the Bears at least vulnerable, according to a pair of Albuquerque coaches.
Eldorado’s David Williams and Manzano’s Aaron Ocampo both used the word “human” to describe La Cueva.
“I think the obvious question everyone wants to know is, ‘Are they as good as they have been the last two years?’”’ said Williams, whose team put a scare into the Bears in Week 2 before losing 14-6.
“I think, offensively, most people will be surprised at the speed and the skill position people they still have,” Williams said.
Eldorado — which did not make the playoffs in either of the last two years — led 6-0 at the half and was threatening to score a second touchdown at the end of the game.
This kind of scenario never presented itself last year as La Cueva romped through its regular-season schedule and the postseason as well. The swath of destruction in 2004 included two routs of state runner-up Clovis.
“They’re not as good. They don’t have quite the firepower,” Ocampo said. “Last year, they probably had on their team the six high top players in the state. This year, they are very good — I would probably say them and Clovis are the most talented teams in the state.”
Clovis (2-1) plays Saturday at La Cueva (2-0), which has won 28 straight games. In fact, the Wildcats are the last team to beat La Cueva, 10-0 in the 2003 state quarterfinals.
La Cueva opened its season by administering a 42-7 shellacking on Manzano in a game that was expected to at least be a test the Bears.
“I think they thought the (2004) season never ended,” said Williams of the returning Bears.
Williams and Ocampo said La Cueva’s is the biggest strength of the squad. Like a year ago, the Bears use their best athletes on offense and defense. Ends Matt Nulk and Kurt Bujewski have garnered attention for their line play, but Williams said tackles Brett Kennedy and Taylor Crooks are just as good.
The Bears got an off-season bonus on offense when NMMI running back Bryson Carl transferred to La Cueva. Only a year before, Carl made the opposite move out of the La Cueva district to go to the New Mexico Military Institute.
Carl lines up at fullback for the Bears, who use Mike Frame at tailback.
Frame’s twin brother, Matt, provides a good target for quarterback Alex Lackey.
“He (Carl) has really given them a real good inside run game and they’ve got a couple of receivers they can throw to,” Williams said.