AP NEWS

Jaguars’ girls coach hired to lead boys team

June 30, 2018

Luis De La Cruz knows the bar is set high for the Capital boys soccer program, but it’s his to clear.

De La Cruz, who was the Jaguars’ girls soccer head coach, switched to the boys program Friday. He replaced Eugene Doyle, who resigned in May after 11 seasons and a state title.

De La Cruz led the Capital girls to a 5-12-1 record in 2017 in his first head coach stint. Assistant coach Miguel Burgos will take over the girls program.

De La Cruz, who works in the Santa Fe Public Schools’ human resources department, acknowledged that he has big shoes to fill.

“[Doyle] left the bar pretty high,”

De La Cruz said. “Hopefully, we’ll keep the hard work going.”

De La Cruz does have plenty of experience. He was a four-year varsity player at El Paso’s Chapin and was a part of New Mexico’s Olympic Development program. He played at Wayland Baptist University, a NAIA school in Plainview, Texas, and played professionally in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

Larry Chavez, SFPS athletic director, said De La Cruz’s soccer background and his Spanish-speaking abilities played a role in the hire.

“It might not show on the résumé, but something as simple as being bilingual or being a certified driver for Suburbans can be huge,” Chavez said. “There at Capital, it was important to get someone who is bilingual. I think he brings the total package.”

De La Cruz said he is in the process of contacting current and prospective players about setting up summer workouts in preparation for the 2018 season. He said he had a chance to watch the boys team several times last year as the boys and girls teams played district doubleheaders, and he is aware of the talent the Jaguars have.

“They are very good players,” De La Cruz said. “The team, skill-wise and knowing the sport, is a well-rounded group. That is going to make my job easier.”

While Capital technically remains in Class 5A, it is a step up because the state moved back to a five-class system. So, the Jaguars traded Los Alamos, Albuquerque Academy and Albuquerque Del Norte for Santa Fe High plus Albuquerque schools Sandia, Manzano, Albuquerque High and Rio Grande for district foes. Albuquerque High is the reigning big-school champion and has reached the finals the past two years.

De La Cruz said the District 5-5A schedule will not be easy, but it’s different compared to playing the Chargers, who have played in the past five state title matches and won two of them, and Los Alamos, which reached the 5A semifinals for the past three seasons.

“The district we were in last year was always competing for a state championship,” De La Cruz said. “The level we are going to is challenging, but not quite what the guys have been seeing.”