On Tuesday, the voters at MaxPreps announced its all-state football team. Roswell had three first-team players named to the team: quarterback Dominic Nava, offensive lineman Joshua Castillo and Jasia Reese as an all-purpose player.
Goddard’s junior offensive lineman Larry Luna was voted second-team all-state. Roswell swept the coaching category with Jeff Lynn being named as the Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.
In his seventh year, Roswell coach Jeff Lynn is on a roll winning his second consecutive championship, with a 25-19 win over Los Lunas Saturday. Lynn revamped the offense in which he moved away from the ground and pound with a running attack led by Justin Carrasco in 2018 and Gabe Najar in 2017.
Lynn adopted a high-risk high-reward offense, all the while breaking in a new starting quarterback in Dominic Nava. In order to do that, Lynn had to rely heavily on the underrated offensive line. The team had a healthy Xavier Lomelli but none of the linemen shined brighter than the linchpin Joshua Castillo. For the last two years, Lynn was bailed out by the sweetest feet in southeastern New Mexico — Jasia Reese.
Goddard coach Chris White can count on the return of the terminator Larry Luna. Luna is on the watchlist of major colleges across the country. With a senior season to play, look for Luna to become more impressive after another offseason in the weight room.
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For Roswell and the powers that be, these numbers were unpalatable: 0-10 against crosstown rival Goddard in football games. What’s worse, was the scoreboard. Goddard had scored 453 points to Roswell’s 62 points in 10 games. It comes out to an average of Goddard scoring 45.3 points a game to the Coyotes 6.2 games. In 2005, Roswell lost to Goddard twice, 42-16 and 49-27 according to MaxPreps.
Enter the reigning New Mexico MaxPreps 5A Coach of the Year: Jeff Lynn. Lynn won the award last season in 2018, and the state title as well. One of the things Lynn is surprised about is how long it took him to turn the Coyotes’ football program around.
“Coach of the Year,” Lynn said, “that’s a team award. We have a good staff. The assistant coaches, like defensive coordinator Art Bolanos, Derrick Gomez, Jourdan Rodriguez, Jacob Avalos, Tim Fuller, Jessie Boggs, Micah Trujillo and my dad, David Lynn. All of those guys are Coaches of the Year because I’m not doing this by myself. It means a lot, it means all of the hard work we put into this deal and the way we built it is finally starting to pay off.”
One of Lynn’s first goals was to change the culture at RHS. His second goal was to beat Goddard — he knew he had to beat Goddard to establish a winning tradition. In his first two attempts, he lost, 35-0 and 21-10.
Since his first two seasons, Lynn has won five straight games against Goddard. Lynn broke through with his first win in 2015, with a 42-35 win. Lynn has made the playoffs every year he has been coach except his second year, his only losing season at Roswell.
“I knew we would get here,” Lynn said. “I knew we would get to the point where we were good. It took a little longer than I thought it would. I thought we would have taken a bigger step in year two. We were 2-8 and in year three we started taking steps. It takes a while to change the culture, and to get kids to work like I wanted them to work.”
Lynn attributes the turnaround to the offseason conditioning program and playing the toughest schedule available. He believes his team cannot be ready for the district schedule and state playoff competition by playing an easy schedule.
Lynn would rather play a tough schedule and lose some games in order to get better, than to win games against weak competition just to pad his won-loss record. He feels like if his team is playing the best competition, his Coyotes will be ready for district games and state. Lynn feels like his team should be in the mix every year for the Blue Trophy.
For Lynn, the defining moment of his coaching career came in 2016 during a playoff loss to St. Pius X. It was the year Roswell had Gabe Najar. Lynn said they could not run against St. Pius X and the Sartans were bigger than them. He felt if the Coyotes had a little passing game, it would have made a difference in that game, but Roswell was beaten badly and bounced out of the playoffs. Lynn felt like they had a big offensive line with good slotbacks and Najar as a fullback. He didn’t think St. Pius X was better than Roswell but they stopped them.
“I felt like 2016 was one of our best teams,” Lynn said. “We were ground and pound and we got into a game against St. Pius X in the semifinals and lost, 42-7. We couldn’t run over them and we didn’t have enough in the passing game to beat them. I really felt like that was when the decision was made to be more balanced and be more spread.”
From that loss, Lynn changed his philosophy and decided to throw the ball and go no-huddle. It has taken years for that subtle change in the offense to manifest itself to where his team is as comfortable throwing the ball as it is running the ball.
“We don’t win the Los Lunas game Saturday,” Lynn said, “if we don’t throw the ball. All three of our touchdowns were passing. They were playing us from outside-in and it took us a while to figure it out. No team had played us that way this season. So, we needed to throw the ball to loosen them up a bit.”
For Lynn, being a football coach is the family business. It’s what he was born to do. His dad, David Lynn won six titles as a head coach and is in the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Jeff Lynn is one of a few coaches to win the Blue Trophy as a player, playing for his dad. He has won two titles as a coach, and he has coached with his brother Josh Lynn and his father. Jeff Lynn considers coaching the family business.
“I always say, if you’re in the banking business or the construction business,” Jeff Lynn said, “there’s a good chance that you’ll grow up in that business. My dad just happened to be in the coaching business.”
When the steady quarterback Ethan Valenzuela graduated, Lynn handed the keys to Nava. Coming into the season, Nava was a relatively untested and unknown player as quarterback. It didn’t take long for the fans to see what they had when he scrambled in a scrimmage against Mayfield and went 80 yards on a broken play.
“We always want the kids to be themselves,” Lynn said. “We want them to play the game the right way, and we want to respect the opponent. We want the kids to have fun and play freely.”
Nava seemed to have all the answers this year, he could turn a broken play into six points, and he could throw it 50 yards for six points. Roswell needed Nava in their state championship game against Los Lunas.
“Dominic had a fantastic year for us,” Lynn said. “We ended up scoring over 600 points in 13 games. You don’t do that without a great quarterback. He was a leader and just a really good high school quarterback — he’s an awfully good player.”
Jasia Reese, in his junior year, returned a kickoff or punt return every game last year. Many times they were called back because of a block in the back. Reese can stretch the defense and he also can cover man-to-man.
“He’s a special player,” Lynn said. “He’s just a dynamic player and has a good work ethic.”
Joshua Castillo shored up the offensive line and made it a strong point for the Coyotes.
“He started games as a sophomore,” Lynn said. “He started more games than anyone out of that senior class. He was a strong tackle. He’s just a really good kid.”
Less than 72 hours after winning the state title, Lynn was leading workouts in the weight room getting his team ready for the next football season. That’s the 5A MaxPreps’ New Mexico Coach of the Year winner leading by example.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sports Editor’s Notes
By J.T. Keith
Jeff Lynn replaced Robert Arreola in 2013.
Robert Arreola coached Roswell from 2008-12; his record was 21-35, and 0-5 against Goddard. His teams scored 13 points while giving up 231.
Lynn is 60-27 and 5-2 against Goddard in his seventh season.
Lynn has won four games in a row against Goddard.
Goddard has outscored Roswell 171-145 in Lynn’s tenure.
Lynn is 2-0 in the championship game.
Lynn is back-to-back MaxPreps Coach of the Year: 2018-19.