It’s a tradition for many Taos Tigers football players to get a haircut before a big game at Taos Barber Shop, a small salon at the corner of Cruz Alta Road, where Tiger alums run …
It’s a tradition for many Taos Tigers football players to get a haircut before a big game at Taos Barber Shop, a small salon at the corner of Cruz Alta Road, where Tigers alums run the clippers, sports are a frequent topic and a game is almost always on.
A replay of the Saints, Cowboys game was playing on the shop's TV Friday afternoon (Nov. 30) when Tigers Anthony Maestas, Adam Vigil and Tristan Garcia filed in to get a trim.
Tomorrow they face off against the Bloomfield Bobcats for the 4A state championship at Anaya Field in Taos. Win or lose, they all know they're headed for a significant moment when the game starts at 1 p.m.: the first shot Taos has had at the state title in New Mexico Activities Association history.
"We’re trying to not be complacent and to not get overexcited and just stick to our gameplan," said Vigil, a running back for the team.
The pressure's on, but the hour or so they spend here between final sessions in the gym, polishing key plays and absorbing pointers from Coach Art Abreu Jr. is time both welcome and well-earned after a long and successful season.
Mike Suazo, a former Tigers football player himself and one of the three barbers at the shop, already had someone in his chair when the players walked in, but lifted his head to say "what's up" as they stepped inside.
Maestas, a wide receiver for the team, said Suazo's been cutting his hair since he was a sophomore at Taos High School. "It's the best barber shop here and he's my best friend's brother," Maestas said. He comes here to get a haircut before other special events, too, like prom and homecoming.
When Maestas climbed into the chair, Suazo got to work on a familiar head of hair. He asked what the team is doing to prepare for game day.
"So you're running some plays?" he asked.
"Yeah, just making sure everything's crisp," Maestas responds. "They'll throw the ball a little bit, but their running back runs hard, so we just gotta make sure we can tackle him."
The Bobcats developed a reputation this season for passing plays that can take them through the opposing team's territory quickly, and the legs to power through holes in tough defensive lines.
"It's going to be intense," Garcia, a special teams player and backup center, said after head barber Carlos Gonzalez finished cleaning up his buzz cut. "We're just going to go out there and play our hearts out and not give up."
He said he's been watching iterations of Taos Tigers football compete since he was little. As he spoke, other local Taos men came through the door to get a haircut, some of them with similar memories from their high school years, whether they watched from the sidelines or took part in the action.
But as the hours tick down to the historic game, many Taoseños may be feeling that they all have something on the field, whether through a son or a nephew, a friend or a classmate, or a player they've been following closely throughout the season.
As Maestas, Vigil and Garcia finished up and departed for their final practice together as a team, Suazo wished them the same success he worked for when he was a player.
"Good luck out there," he says. "Tear it up. Bring home that win."
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