RHS graduate coaching Hornets

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By Richard Tripp
For the Optic

Derek Maestas’ dream of becoming a head football coach is now a reality. The 1999 Robertson grad and former football player is now the head football coach at Albuquerque’s Highland  High School, replacing Gary Sanchez.

Maestas is attempting to return the Hornets program back to the glory days of Bill Gentry and Judge Chavez and Mark Henry, who guided the program to a 6-0 state championship win over Clovis in 1989.
Excerpts of my interview with Maestas follow.

Tripp: When did you find out that you received the position and what does it mean to be replacing Gary Sanchez?

Maestas: I was named head coach at Highland this past February. Gary Sanchez has been such a great mentor for me as a coach. He has so much experience coaching. The biggest thing that I have learned from Gary is his passion for coaching. He truly cares for the athletes and wants to help them succeed in the future. A lot of his future athletes have gone on to college and received degrees. I am keeping a lot (of) the same things that Gary installed in his program. The Highland football program has been in great hands with Gary Sanchez.

Tripp: Is this your first head coaching job?

Maestas: This is my first head coaching job for a varsity sport. I have been a head coach back in Las Vegas in middle school boys’ track and girls’ middle school basketball. I have also been the head coach for the junior varsity for the past three seasons. Prior to that, I was the head coach for the freshman for two years.

Tripp: Tell us a little bit as to what Highland High and high school football fans can expect from your program.

Maestas: My program is going to bring back the community and alumni. My program is going to work on getting each student athlete to be respectful and learn life lessons from playing football. Only a small amount of student athletes get to go to college to play sports, so I want to make sure that they are learning how to communicate with others and being young responsible mature males.

Tripp: What do you see as a realistic goal for this team this year?

Maestas: I have 22 seniors and 13 juniors. There is a lot of experience in this group. I honestly think this group can win a state title. A lot of these players have been playing with each other since their YAFL days.

Tripp: Tell us a little about yourself.

Maestas: My grandparents and parents are from Las Vegas, New Mexico. My parents are David and Dorothy Maestas. I have three brothers and one sister. My sister is a school counselor at Valley High School in Albuquerque. My oldest brother David is an engineer in Las Cruces. My  brother Darren is a director of a nursing program in Albuquerque. My brother Dominic works at Comcast. He was also the cross country coach at Robertson. His girls won state a few years back. All of my siblings went to Robertson. My parents graduated from West Las Vegas.

Tripp: I understand you were a pretty good athlete, coach. What sports and honors did you earn at RHS?

Maestas: In high school I participated in track for four years and football three years. I played corner and receiver. I was third on the team for tackles my senior year. I got hurt during my homecoming game on a kickoff returning the ball, and I was out for four games.

During my high school career I maintained a 3.7 GPA and was named a Cardinal Scholar. I also received the NASA Training Scholarship to attend the University of New Mexico. I was also part of the NHS and MESA ... I graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in mathematics. Just this past May, I graduated with a mental health and school counseling degree from the University of New Mexico.

Tripp: How would you describe yourself as a coach?

Maestas: I am a coach that is strict but flexible. I want to work with each and every player on my team. I know that each player has a different story, and I try my best to help out each player.  I will not take “no” for an answer,  because I want my players to push themselves. I want them to achieve the goals that they have set for themselves.

Tripp: So what would you like to see your student-athletes take with them when their playing days are over in high school?

Maestas: I am hoping that they are taking the fact that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.

Tripp: Does anybody stand out as being role models that you look at?

Maestas: My main role models are my parents. They have worked so hard and installed in our family a great work ethic and positive outlook on life ... My role model for coaching is Art Abreu (former Robertson football coach).  He has taught me so much when it comes to coaching and life.  Art Abreu believed in me and showed me that I can achieve anything I set my mind to ... I have had the ability to get mentored by three hall of fame coaches [Art Abreu, Judge Chavez, and Gary Sanchez] and it has been my pleasure to have this experience.

Editor’s note: Richard Tripp is a Las Vegas sports broadcaster and co-producer of the New Mexico Overtime Sports Center website.