No one could have seen this coming — not Roswell football coach Jeff Lynn; not even his teammates from the year before. Justin Carrasco played defensive back on defense with the feared hitter Brandon Perez. On offense, Roswell was lead in rushing by Gabe Najar. All Najar did was become all-state.
There were questions entering the season of who would pick up the offense and carry the load for the Coyotes. What is so remarkable about Carrasco’s senior campaign was during the preseason and in their scrimmage against Mayfield, Jasia Reese was the starting running back but tweaked his leg. Carrasco stepped in and had a good scrimmage.
In Carrasco’s first start against Lovington, he scored on a 4-yard touchdown run, and on the next series, he took a handoff from quarterback Ethan Valenzuela and was caught behind the line of scrimmage — Carrasco made one tackler miss and then ran through another tackler and took off for a 65-yard touchdown. If that wasn’t enough, he took a screen pass to the house from 65 yards out.
Midway through the second quarter, Carrasco was removed from the game and taken to the hospital. In Roswell’s next game against Hobbs, Carrasco sat out with no one knowing if his senior season would be lost. In that game, Hobbs defeated Roswell at home, 42-20.
Carrasco came back against Los Lunas and rushed for 185 yards and finished the season as a Player of the Year candidate. Carrasco rushed for 15 TDs and 1,580 yards. Justin Carrasco was a workhorse in his signature game of the season as he rushed for three TDs and 273 yards on 41 carries against Artesia. Carrasco would come back to help lead Roswell to their first state championship since 2000.
Carrasco was such a threat with the ball in his hands that he received several offers from Fort Lewis, NMMI and Eastern New Mexico. Schools such as Western New Mexico and West Texas A&M showed interest in Carrasco as well.
On Wednesday, Carrasco, along with his Coyote teammates, Dylan Tucker and Cade Manzanares, signed with Eastern New Mexico University to continue his education and play football. Carrasco will play slot receiver at ENMU. ENMU likes Carrasco’s strength and how he will fit into their system.
“This was a no-brainer,” Justin Carrasco said. “It’s only a couple of hours down the road. I have some friends that play there and that’s where I want to be.”
Justin feels like ENMU is the right fit for him because the offense is similar to Roswell so the adjustment period should be quicker. He understands going in, that all of the freshmen will be redshirted, which will allow them to adjust to college life, school and be able to get into the weight room and get stronger. Also, Carrasco feels like being close to home is a plus for the team.
During the visit, Justin Carrasco liked how big the campus was and his meal at the cafeteria. ENMU has a new $1 million weight room and the football facilities are four years old.
“Justin is also a strong kid,” Lee says. “He holds plenty of weight room records for Roswell. Justin’s dad, Pilar Carrasco, was also an All-Conference tight end for the ‘Hounds in the ‘90s, so being a ‘Hound is in Justin’s DNA. We look forward to adding Justin to our great tradition.”
Justin Carrasco feels like he owes his senior year to the conditioning of the weight room, which has helped him max out. On the bench, he lifted 300 pounds, he squats 450 pounds and deadlifts 420 pounds, his power clean is 285 pounds and he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5.
His father, Pilar Carrasco is a former coach at NMMI, as the head basketball coach and offensive and defensive coordinator in football; and at Lovington, Pilar Carrasco was the head girls basketball coach as well as an offensive and defensive coordinator in football. Pilar Carrasco did not allow his son to lift until after the summer of his freshman year when he got serious in the weight room.
“Justin was an explosive playmaker for the state champion Roswell Coyotes this year at running back,” Eastern New Mexico coach Kelley Lee said. “Whether it was running or catching the ball out of the backfield, he made a tremendous amount of plays for the Coyotes.”
One of the driving forces for the Coyotes and Justin Carrasco this season was their loss to Belen in the playoffs last season. After the game in which Roswell lost to Belen, 27-20, and one of his best friends, Victor Bolanos, told him after the game, “You better make a difference next year because you don’t ever want to feel this feeling right now.”
“Winning the state title means a lot to me,” Justin Carrasco said. “It’s great and it feels good to represent the south side and we’ll be in the history books forever.”
Both father and son have won state titles as football players. Pilar Carrasco won at Lovington in 1990 against Bloomfield with his team going 13-0.
When Justin is done with football, he wants to be a police officer. Justin Carrasco feels like the best advice his father ever gave him was to not let others determine his destiny, not even his father.
“I was probably tougher on him than I should have been,” Pilar Carrasco said. “We lived on the north side of town and I actually thought he was going to play for Sam Jernigan. I knew the kind of program he ran, the big thing I tried to do was coach Justin hard. I tried to get him to develop the passion for football and to always fall forward.”
Justin Carrasco feels like his best game was his last Goddard game — it was his favorite game of his career. To Justin Carrasco, it was personal because of the kids he grew up with and he knew them. He says that he doesn’t know what it’s like to lose to Goddard in high school football. As he heads into the next phase of his football career, he will hear the quote: “Start where you are,” George Washington Carver said, “with what you have. Make something of it and never be satisfied.”
Pilar Carrasco has lived by the ENMU motto on which the football program was built upon by former Greyhounds coach, Harold “Bud” Elliott, and now, so will Justin Carrasco.