Spare a moment today to reflect on the plight of Gabriel Morales. The senior at Loving (N.M.) High was excited about a senior season in which he would serve as the team's captain. The lone senior on the squad, he was expected to provide leadership and star for the Falcons.
He'll still fill that role, but now he'll have to do so on a junior varsity squad after the school canceled the remainder of its varsity schedule because of injuries suffered by a number of varsity players.
As first reported by the Carlsbad Current-Argus, and followed upon by Albuquerque TV network KQRE and the Associated Press, Loving began the season with just 22 players on its varsity football squad. Eleven of those players are freshmen, with just Morales providing senior leadership. When nearly all the other upperclassmen players were injured in the team's early games, Loving officials decided that it would be unsafe to field a team comprised almost solely of freshmen.
Instead, they cancelled the remainder of the varsity season and forced Morales to play as part of the junior varsity team, that will incorporate all of the new freshmen players, Morales and the sophomores and juniors have also avoided injury thus far.
"I didn't know whether to be sad or angry," Morales told KQRE. "[The remaining Loving players are] just saying they're going to play their hardest for me because it's my last year."
The final varsity chapter in Morales' career was a particularly ignominious one, with Loving falling 51-0 to Hagerman (N.M.) High.
That loss proved to be the last straw for Loving athletic director and football coach Ron Santo, who decided to pull the plug on the varsity season in the interest of the safety of his remaining players.
"It's not a proud day. I've been here for 27 years, and it's probably the worst day in athletics I've ever felt in football," said Loving High School Football Coach Doug Santo.
"We just decided to do it now to be able to finish out the season at least to play JV football," said Santo.