The Taos Tigers football team worked hard to earn their championship title, but they were not alone on the journey to the top.
Long-standing Tiger fans have waited years to see a football team reach the championship game, and many were certain this was going to be the team to do it. Through decades of watching from the sidelines, the stands or the press box, Tiger fans have turned out to show their support for the students, wearing their stripes proudly at every game on Anaya Field.
“The whole community feels like champions,” said longtime Tiger sports announcer Daniel Gonzales. “All of us that have participated feel like (the team) did the job, but they also brought us along with them.”
Gonzales has announced football games for the Tigers for nearly 30 years and has supported the Tigers through fair and rough seasons. This year’s group of players caught his eye early on, and after a few games, he had a good feeling about this team.
“It was an incredible job this year,” Gonzales said. “They believed in themselves and their coaches and had each others backs, and that’s why they’re state champs.”
The community of Taos has not always been known as a “football town,” but Gonzales remembers a time when his high school team was welcomed back from winning an away game with a parade from the Gorge Bridge all the way back into town. He feels that the spirit from this season will carry over into other sports as well as the next football season.
Community support for the 2018 Tigers could be seen throughout Taos this year with several stores and houses decked out in Tiger gear or messages of praise. One local who went above and beyond was Hilario Serrano, who showed his support for the Tigers in a different way.
“I had a good inclination this year that the Tigers were going to go deep in the postseason,” he said. “I really saw their work ethic and their desire.”
Each season for a decade, Serrano has placed white cups in a fence in front of Randall Lumber along Paseo del Pueblo Sur to spell out motivational phrases for the Tigers. This year, he used the cups to track the Tigers’ record, right up to the championship game, when they ended the season 12-1.
“It gave the community a real time stat on where our football program was,” Serrano said.
Serrano has been a fan for many years and has even coached some of the players as assistant boys and girls track coach. Knowing their background in athletics on and off the field, Serrano said the boys deserve every bit of praise and glory they receive after winning this championship.
Pride in the Tigers’ efforts and tenacity was rampant across the community, and even volunteers who must remain fair and impartial had a hard time containing their excitement during the season.
Orlando Archuleta is a member of the “chain gang” who marks the football’s position and the line of scrimmage on the field. For the past ten years he has had a front row seat for all the home games.
“That’s one of the best defensive teams I’ve ever seen the Tigers have,” Archuleta said. “I think they’re a wellrounded team.”
Archuleta said he was thrilled to be on the sidelines as the Tigers held Bloomfield away from the end zone in the final four minutes to prevent the Bobcats from tying up the game.
Back at his Taos High School classroom, the man behind the team’s success – head coach Art Abreu Jr. – is still feeling the effects of the championship game. Abreu said the reality and the gravity of his team’s victory has yet to settle with him.
“There’s hope in this community,” Abreu said. “For a major sport like this, for the first (championship) to come here, it was just awesome.”
Abreu has worked for the past four years conditioning this team both physically and mentally and said he is proud of their accomplishments but is looking at next year’s games already.
“They’re relentless,” Abreu said. “They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. The bar has been put at another level up. There’s a new standard.”
Abreu said the win is also for the community and felt a great deal of pride in bringing the first state football championship to Taos High School.
“It’s something that will be with them for the rest of their lives. They’ll be state champs,” Gonzales said. “That can’t be taken away from them.”
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