Last season, the Manzano Monarchs of Albuquerque, New Mexico went 8-4, losing in the playoffs to eventual 5A state champs Las Cruces. With numerous experienced and talented starters returning, Manzano looks poised to potentially pass last season's success this upcoming campaign. This task, though, will not be easy as the Monarchs play a schedule loaded with some of New Mexico's top programs.
Offensively, things start under center with QB Tyler Krueger. Last season, Krueger established himself as one of the most versatile quarterbacks in New Mexico as he threw for nearly 2,000 yards while rushing for 300 more, with a total of 34 TDs. Manzano Head Coach Aaron Ocampo feels Krueger's ability to run the ball is key to Monarch's offense saying, "If Tyler rushes for 500 yards or more our offense will be very productive." Although talented, Krueger is not the only threat returning on the Manzano offense. 6-2 180 pound running back Jordan Llamas is back. Last season, Llamas averaged five yards a carry on the way to nearly 1,200 rush yards. With the Krueger and Llamas both being legit run threats, the Manzano pass game will have opportunities. Along with Krueger and Llamas, underclassman Kevin Reaves has the ability to make plays and joins Llamas as a top pass catcher for Krueger.
Defensively, if the Monarchs want to be serious contenders, they will need to tighten up the 26 points a game they surrendered last year. With seven defensive returnees led by All-State candidates Jayson Serda and Brain Wilkinson, improvement will be on the way. Serda, a defensive back, is all over the field, where he collects tackles and interceptions with great regularity. Over his career, Serda has compiled 15 interceptions. Holding the fort for the front seven on the Monarch D is linebacker Brian Wilkinson. Melvin Lewis, Josh Romero and Luke Jaramillo look to be strong defensive performers as well.
Manzano boss Aaron Ocampo is quietly optimistic about his team saying, "we have a lot of productive kids returning." That are, "doing a lot to improve." If that improvement sticks, keep a watch on the Monarchs next season.