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Championship coach Neighbors trusts God, resigns

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No matter what else he does in life, former Goddard basketball coach Jared Neighbors will stand in pretty tall company in Roswell.

He will be in rare company at Goddard High School. The other coach that stands tall at Goddard is Leon Sims, the boys’ basketball coach that won a state championship in 1988. Neighbors was the first coach to bring the girls a state title in District 4-5A, with a 35-30 victory over No. 2 Los Lunas in 2017.

To reach that game was a miracle in and of itself. All throughout the tournament, Neighbors said his team was David and the other teams were Goliath. In the first round, Goddard had to beat Albuquerque Academy 30-24 to meet up with district rival Roswell, led by Jaedyn De La Cerda. Goddard had some confidence, they had beaten Roswell in an upset earlier in the season.

Goddard would need all of their faith at The Pit to knock off the Lady Coyotes. Goddard won by playing six players and winning 54-52. In the championship game against Los Lunas, they went cold from the field for the third quarter before winning 35-30.

“Winning the state title was never a goal,” Neighbors said. “It has always been about loving on kids and getting them to believe in themselves and teaching them how to play the game. When that year started we were not even ranked in the top 10. One of the highlights was knocking off Roswell when they were ranked No. 1 in the state.”

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Neighbors said that team was a special team. He had the team watch the North Carolina State victory over Houston. He labeled his team David versus Goliath.

“You can read the Bible,” Neighbors said. “Every time David beats Goliath.”

During the time-outs in pressure situations, he talked to them about relaxing and enjoying the moment and listening to the music. He would tell his team this is fun. The night before the championship game, the team talked about their goals in life. Neighbors told them there would be ups and downs. Struggles and triumphs in each person’s life. There was laughter and tears.

“I told the team at breakfast the next morning,” Neighbors said, “in a typical year, you don’t know when your season is going to end. But we know our season is going to be over tomorrow win or lose. We know that God overcame the world and we will too.”

For Neighbors, a devout Christian, numbers mean something. He has been taking it a year at a time since he has been here. This is his seventh year here and seven is the number of perfection and completion.

After seven years as coach, he said that the Lord had opened up this door for him and his wife to move to the Marshall Islands to teach.

Neighbors will not be coaching, only teaching. He noted that he is not retiring and that he will be back to coaching at some point, but right now he is following the Lord. There were tears of sadness when he told his team Sunday night that he was leaving them.

Neighbors knows that he is leaving a team capable of winning the state title next year with Alexis Sandoval, Daci Smith, and Ericca Cannon, to name a few of the players that will be coming back next year. Neighbors said the COVID-19 pandemic played a big decision in his leaving.

“We prayed about it,” Neighbors said. “It’s a hard place to get into too. We both got in.”

Neighbors’ wife, Crockett, will teach as well.

“We had a great church family here, the community has been amazing to us and we love it here. We prayed about it and the Lord gave us peace about this decision.”

When Neighbors came to Goddard, the team had not had a winning season for a while. In his third season, Goddard won the state title. Neighbors said that when he first met his team, he was excited.

He liked the family atmosphere and that the parents supported him. It was amazing that he won playing six players. Neighbors said that he played with the talent he had. He always wanted to run and for the last two years, he has.

In his first three years, the team made the playoffs. Neighbors said that he was encouraged by the parents to keep going.

Some of his favorite moments in his seven years have been the special trips. Having devotionals with them in the hotels, the overnight trips, and going down the rapids in Colorado. He loved summer ball, and racing cars in Phoenix, Arizona.

Neighbors said that he will miss assistant coach Hayden Hill. Neighbors said that they have played well off of each other.

His favorite moment of his coaching career here is winning the state title and the kids dog-piling each other.

“I want the kids to know I care about them,” Neighbors said. “I care about them more than just the basketball. I have not retired, I will be back. I’m just taking a pause. I will be back. I don’t know where or when, but I will be back. I’m not retiring from coaching. We are just trusting God.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

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