Volcano Vista High School enjoyed a superb football season in 2019.
The upstart Hawks beat traditional metro-area powers La Cueva, Rio Rancho and Cleveland en route to the state big-school title game, where they fell 48-30 in a rematch against Rio Rancho – finishing 11-1 on the year.
Front and under center, in his only year as a varsity player at VVHS, was senior quarterback Diego Pavia – a gifted athlete with a special talent for improvisation. Pavia finished the season with 1,485 yards passing, 464 yards rushing and accounted for 19 touchdowns.
Less visible, but perhaps no less important, was Cody Moon, a lanky defensive end. Moon had 61 tackles, second on the team, and contributed three quarterback sacks.
Saturday in Las Cruces, the two former teammates almost certainly will see each other across the line of scrimmage.
Moon, a redshirt sophomore and a former walk-on, is now the leading tackler on an aggressive University of New Mexico defense. He’s listed as 2-4 UNM’s starter at right linebacker.
Pavia, a junior who last fall led the New Mexico Military Institute Broncos to a National Junior College Athletic Association title, has shared New Mexico State quarterback duties this season with true freshman Gavin Frakes. Coach Jerry Kill has not named a starter, but Pavia has played in all six games thus far for the 1-5 Aggies.
Moon, interviewed after Wednesday’s Lobo practice, said his relationship with Pavia began well before the latter’s one varsity season at Volcano Vista, having had to sit out a year after transferring from St. Pius X.
“He’s my friend, for sure,” Moon said. “We’re pretty tight. We grew up playing against each other in youth football, on the same team in high school football and now we’re playing against each other again.”
Moon, having had to chase Pavia around the Volcano Vista practice field in 2019, has the utmost respect for his former teammate’s elusiveness and creativity. But he believes the UNM defense is ready for that and whatever else the Aggie offense presents.
“He’s for sure slippery; he can get around,” he said of Pavia. “But if we do our job we’ll be all right out there.
“Our scheme of defense is rally to the ball and everybody run to the ball as fast as you can and as hard as you can and with the worst intention as possible. With that type of mentality on defense I think we’ll be all right, rally to the ball and keep (Pavia) in the pocket.”
Might they have been teammates at UNM? Lobos head coach Danny Gonzales said earlier this week that he’s known Pavia since the young quarterback attended football camps at Arizona State when Gonzales was ASU’s defensive coordinator.
“He’s a competitive, competitive young man,” Gonzales said. “I think he’s done a really good job in the first six games that they’ve played.”
Gonzales chose, however, to offer Pavia a spot on the UNM roster out of NMMI as a preferred walk-on and not to tender a scholarship offer. Pavia opted for a full ride at NMSU.
Moon, meanwhile, standing 6-foot-4 and at the time weighing less than 200 pounds, walked on to the UNM roster in 2000.
Still listed at only 205 pounds, with a build seemingly better suited for basketball than football, he nonetheless leads the Lobos with 47 tackles – one more than cornerback Jerrick Reed – through six games.
“The best way to describe Cody Moon is, he’s a bull rider,” Gonzales said. “He’s got no fear.”
Those words also would be an apt description of how Pavia plays quarterback.
Saturday, the state of New Mexico will see who rides the bull to the buzzer.
THE QB DERBY: The commitment to UNM on Wednesday of Phoenix-area prep quarterback Devon Dampier came 17 days after La Cueva QB Aidan Armenta did the same.
Let the speculation begin.
Dampier, a senior at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, is a classic dual-threat quarterback. Through six games this season, as reported by the Arizona Republic, he has passed for 1,038 yards and rushed for 567. He has accounted for 13 touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
Dampier, listed as 6 feet tall and weighing 185 pounds, told the Republic that UNM had offered him a scholarship during his junior year.
“They showed me love from the beginning,” he said.
Dampier said he likes what he’s heard about UNM’s offensive plans.
“They do a lot of read option,” he said. “They’re not afraid to run their quarterback.”
Dampier also said he plans to graduate high school early, be enrolled at UNM for 2023 spring drills and to compete for the starting job that fall – which should get the attention of not only Armenta but the four QBs on the current UNM roster with eligibility remaining after this season.
Armenta’s statistics aren’t those of a dual-threat quarterback: 2,318 yards passing for 23 touchdowns through seven games but with a minus-44 yards on the ground. It should be noted, though, that La Cueva has thrown the ball 60 percent of the time.
Cleveland quarterback Evan Wysong committed to UNM in March, but its widely believed he’ll play wide receiver for the Lobos, as does older brother Luke.
All commitments are non-binding until a signed letter of intent is received by the school in question. The next signing period will take place in December.
WATCH LIST: Lobos starting quarterback Miles Kendrick has been named to the watch list for the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Kendrick suffered a broken leg last season while playing for Kansas against Kansas State. After transferring to UNM, he’s started all six of the Lobos’ games. He has completed 64-of-112 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 137 yards and three TDs.
He is one of 61 players on the list.