El Paso may be isolated from the rest of Texas, but there are several quality programs that are consistently in the mix as a top program in the city. The Del Valle Conquistadores are one of those programs and it was much the same story in 2016. Under head coach Jesse Perales, the Conquistadores have made the playoffs for 13 straight years.
“First and foremost, our players here realize that they have to put in the work,” Perales said, “They have to be committed and disciplined and be willing to sacrifice some of their own personal goals for the betterment of the team. Making the playoffs 13 years in a row is great, but I’m prouder guys going on to be successful in life once they leave here.”
2016 got off to a tough start for Del Valle, losing non-district games to El Paso Americas (6A) and one of the top programs in New Mexico in Las Cruces Mayfield. It’s all part of Perales’ philosophy of improving his team, especially for a team playing a number of younger players.
“We knew it was going to be tough, but we scheduled tough in the preseason,” Perales said, “We’ve never been a type of team that schedules weaker teams because I’ve always believed that they prepare you for district and postseason play. We had some young guys but once we got into district play, that’s when we started getting things rolling.”
Once Del Valle got into district play, it was a completely different story. The Conquistadores finished 7-1 in District 2-5A, losing only to a Canutillo Eagles team that went undefeated during the regular season. A big part of that was thanks to his then-sophomore quarterback whose name may sound familiar to fans in El Paso and Boulder, Colorado.
“Ray Montez is the toughest kid I’ve ever coached,” Perales said about his quarterback, “He plays quarterback with a defensive mentality. He was raw and still learning but he was able to settle in and understand what our coaches are asking from him. He’s really grown a lot.”
Ray is the younger brother of Steven Montez, who is projected as the starting quarterback at Colorado next season. Back in El Paso, Ray is working on developing his own game with the Conquistadores and Perales is expecting big things from him in 2017.
“He doesn’t want to be compared. He wants to be better than his brother,” Perales said of the younger Montez, “I think he also wants to be special like Steven and he’s willing to put the time in. We’re going to be putting a lot more on his shoulders next season.”
Montez isn’t the only impact player returning to Del Valle in 2017. Perales is also excited for players such as rising juniors receiver Karch Gardiner and linebacker Ivan Perez and rising seniors in defensive end Carlos Baeza offensive lineman Tristan Tuialuuluu. Even with some of the losses from the 2016 team, Perales is confident of not just those returners but his entire team to step up and keep the playoff train rolling.
“Our juniors-to-be have been undefeated since the seventh grade,” Perales said, “They know how to win. They’ll all be reunited next year and we’ll be ready to go and do even better.”
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