- Special Sections
- Public Notices
To say the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team is feeling better about itself in 2012 as opposed to 2011 is an understatement.
Heading into their opener at Pojoaque last year, the Hilltoppers were wracked with injuries and had inexperience by the bagful.
But when the Hilltoppers open up their season tonight at Sullivan Field, those problems will be non-existent.
Los Alamos takes on Pojoaque in its season opener. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Hilltoppers were knocked around by the Elks 59-22 in the 2011 opener, a game that was disastrous on all fronts. It would take the Hilltoppers a month to recover from that loss and the pasting they would take the following week against Aztec.
"We weren't completely ready for competition," said Hilltopper junior Peter Brewer. "Everybody was nervous and we were making a lot of simple mistakes."
But the 2012 preseason has gone swimmingly and even though Brewer, an offensive and defensive lineman for Los Alamos, said he has some butterflies going in, he's expecting the team to pick up where it left off at the tail-end of last year.
Los Alamos finished 6-5 in 2011, grabbing its first District 2-4A championship since 2008 and advancing to the Class 4A playoffs. Los Alamos only managed to get the No. 12 seed in the playoffs, however, and was overwhelmed by Los Lunas in the first round.
But in district play, Los Alamos caught fire, particularly its running game with returners Arnoldo Ortiz (5-10, 190), a 1,000-yard rusher and one of the most punishing backs in Northern New Mexico, and Xavier Dennison (5-10, 185), who had a pair of 100-yard games late in the season, toting the ball for the Hilltoppers.
However, Los Alamos will be banking on a gentle learning curve at the quarterback position. Brice Van Etten, a junior, will take over the starting role following the move out of the state by last year's starter, Danny Finn.
Van Etten, who stacks up at 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, said he's ready for the challenge.
"I'm feeling pretty good," said Van Etten, who will be steering an offense which loves to employ the option and grind it out. "I got to sit behind Danny last year. I got the plays down pretty good…Our running stuff is looking pretty good and our passing is looking pretty good."
Van Etten got a chance to work out his arm last week at a scrimmage in the Four Corners and Los Alamos head coach Garett Williams said the timing with him and the Hilltopper receiving corps was solid.
Williams said Van Etten is good to go tonight and that isn't by accident as he logged heavy hours on the field and in the weight room this summer.
"Brice had a great scrimmage on Saturday," Williams said. "He ran our offense excellently….He showed what we've been waiting to see from him."
When Van Etten takes his first snap tonight, he will be the seventh opening-day quarterback the Hilltoppers have had in as many years.
Los Alamos, with eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, is favored to win the 2-4A crown again this season, but Santa Fe, considered at this point to be the biggest obstacle to that crown, will also return solid nucleus in 2012, including its dangerous quarterback Jordan Booth-Homer.
Well ahead of that contest, however, will be dates with St. Pius X, homecoming against Kirtland Central and what could be an important benchmark game against Belen.
Brewer said the team's line play has been good during the preseason. It lost two key linemen, Alan Dahl and Nate Robbins, but has adjusted well in their absence.
"The line is pretty strong," said Brewer, who is slated to start in both the left tackle and defensive end slots. "Even if one of us goes down, there are a lot of strong linemen to fill in their place."
Brian Geyer (6-0, 210) will start at center, taking over for Robbins, who was a rock in the middle of the offensive line for four years. Veteran John Gibson (5-9, 185) will get the starting nod at right guard and defensive tackle.
Defensively, Williams will roll the dice by having Van Etten starting at free safety — Van Etten is the only quarterback listed on the Hilltoppers' roster right now.
The defensive secondary was a huge question mark in 2011, but was stabilized by the emergence of ball-hawking cornerback Jake Downs, who returns for his junior year.
Los Alamos still must prove it belongs in the upper echelon of 4A, but the team feels like a big win tonight would put them on the right path.
"We think we can do a lot of great things," Van Etten said. "We've done a lot to prepare. We want to put up a lot of points and I'd personally like to put up a shutout and make a statement."
Garett Williams (3rd year)
Noah Ferry, RB/DB
Ben Betts, WR/LB
Nick Martin, RB/OLB
Arnoldo Ortiz, RB/OLB
Cory Geyer, TE/OLB
Grant Washburn, OL/DE
Mitch Carson, OL/DL
Scott McCrory, OL/DL
Clint Adams, OL/DE
Diego Madrid, OL/DL
John Gibson, OL/LB
Chandler Lauritzen, WR/OLB
Brice Van Etten, QB/S
Xavier Dennison, RB/LB
Tyler Thorn, RB/S
Sidney Ellis, WR/OLB
James Higdon, WR/CB
Moises Pinto, OL/DL
Collin Nickless, OL/DL
Ben Mitsunaga, OL/DL
Brian Geyer, OL/DE
Peter Brewer, OL/DE
Nathan Hohner, RB/DB
Seth Drop, RB/CB
Jake Downs, WR/CB
Scott Gasway, RB/CB
Alex Delamarter, RB/CB
Jonathan Schueler, OL/DT
Sam Ortiz, RB/LB
Aug. 31: vs. Pojoaque, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7: at Farmington, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15: at St. Pius X, 5 p.m.
Sept. 21: vs. Kirtland Central, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28: vs. Belen, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6: at Alb. Academy, 2 p.m.
Oct. 12: at Bernalillo, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 19: vs. Santa Fe, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 26: at Española Valley, 7 p.m.*
Nov. 2: vs. Capital, 7 p.m.*