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Atomic City Update: New district takes away some of LAHS’ best rivalries

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By Phil Scherer

In sports, having new things is always fun. You see it in professional sports all the time. Players are constantly switching teams. Leagues are always looking to expand or relocate teams.

Over the past few years, the NFL has relocated two teams. Coincidentally, both of those teams moved to Los Angeles.

This season, hockey has a new franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. These types of things can be fun for the fans, and it gives them new things to talk about when a monumental shift like that takes place.

This week, we have seen one of those major shifts occur in the New Mexico Activities Association, as the new alignments and districts for high schools were announced, and are set to begin next fall.

Any time you have new opponents to talk about and analyze, it is fun. There is no doubt it will be fun being back in the same football district as Santa Fe High School, and it will be fun to have plenty of new district foes in the other sports, notably Pojoaque High School, Taos High School and Bernalillo High School.

However, the downside became apparent to me as I was looking at the new districts. I realized I am going to miss some of the district matchups that Los Alamos High School currently has.

The most notable one from this year is the absence of Albuquerque Academy from the district soccer season beginning next year. I know the two have only been district rivals for two school years, but it was intense.

We had two perennial state contenders matched up at least two times every soccer season. That is a dream scenario for high school sports fans. And the rivalry didn’t stop in the regular season. In both years the two were matched up in the same district, the schools met in the state playoffs and added more fuel to the fire.

Sure, Academy got the best of LAHS almost every time, but the Hilltoppers looked forward to hose matchups more than any other. When I talked to the coaches and players of both teams prior to soccer season this year, I asked them about games they were looking forward to. Without fail, they mentioned having multiple shots at the Chargers.

The other notable district rivalry that will be lost under the new system is Española Valley in football. Unlike the rivalry with Academy in soccer, this rivalry has been mostly dominated by the Hilltoppers.

Even in down years, LAHS has found a way to take down the Sundevils, which only makes the rivalry more intense. And the past two years, the most dramatic football game of the Hilltoppers’ schedule has come against Española Valley. In both games, the Sundevils had late leads, and watched them slip away. Last year, it was a last-second touchdown pass from Nick Quartieri to Kevin Maresca.

This year, it was a touchdown pass to Jack Stewart with less than a minute left.

There is no doubt that game will be missed on the district schedule.

However, this realignment offers an opportunity for new rivalries to emerge, and for the sake of the game, I hope they do.

High school sports are always more fun when that extra layer of drama is added on top of already dramatic games.