ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – District 1 in Class 6A is arguably the most competitive district in New Mexico high school football. While Cleveland and Rio Rancho have been dominating lately, the Cibola Cougars believe they have the roster to make a deep playoff run, and playing through district will set them up for success.

“By far the best district, if you come out of this district, you’re ready for state,” said Head Coach Chris Howe. “Everyone in it is tough. You got Cleveland, Rio Rancho, Volcano – Atrisco gets better every single year. Yeah, you come out definitely battle tested.”

This year will be the first year coaching the Cougars for Howe. He has been coaching high school football in the Albuquerque metro since the 90s and had stops at Valley, Rio Rancho, and most recently, Eldorado. He is taking over the defense at Cibola, however, the offense will remain with the same system.

The major change for Cibola will be at the quarterback position. Aden Chavez led the state in passing in 2021. However, he moved to Florida for his senior season. His departure left a hole in the Cougars’ offense, and somebody had to step up.

“So I was a safety last year, and so I was preparing to fill that role. When Aden left, it was definitely a surprise. So, it was an unexpected call, but I was ready to step up however for my team,” says new quarterback, Daniel Benham.

Despite losing the top QB in the state, coaches and players around the program believe Benham brings an element to the Cougars that Chavez couldn’t — the ability to run. With Chavez at QB, opposing teams knew how much he depended on his arm, however this year, it will be more of a guessing game.

Cibola opens the 2022 season against Eldorado on Friday, August 19. Highlights from that game will be on Football Friday Night on Fox New Mexico.