<
>

Eye on POY: New Mexico football

The window on the Gatorade State Football Player of the Year race is closing, and time is running out for student-athletes to state their POY case. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program's selection process.

Quavshaun Branch

Senior quarterback, Manzano (Albuquerque, N.M.)

2011 Team record: 9-1

2011 Team standing: Play Clovis in Class 5A quarterfinals Friday

2011 COMP-ATT (%)-YDs: 74-132 (56.1)-1,129

2011 TDs-INTs: 13-5

2011 Carries-YDs (AVG.)-TDs: 184-1,380 (7.5)-16

Academics: B average

Collegiate destination: Undecided

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Over 1,000 yards rushing and passing. First-year starter. Named by ESPNHS as a 2011-12 Preseason Third-Team All-State basketball player.

Cole Gautsche

Senior quarterback, Cleveland (Rio Rancho, N.M.)

2011 Team record: 10-0

2011 Team standing: Play La Cueva in Class 5A quarterfinals Friday

2011 COMP-ATT (%)-YDs: 102-161 (63.4)-2,400

2011 TDs-INTs: 29-3

2011 Carries-YDs (AVG.)-TDs: 109-910 (8.3)-18

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: New Mexico State (verbal)

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Passed for at least three touchdowns in six of 10 regular-season games. Recorded 459 yards of total offense with six touchdowns in a 67-35 win over Manzano on Sept. 30. Over 3,000 yards rushing and passing for his career.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Football Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011 campaign.

David Anaya: Goddard (Roswell, N.M.) senior running back

Axten Franzoy: Mayfield (Las Cruces, N.M.) senior quarterback/safety

Anthony Johnson: Manzano (Albuquerque, N.M.) senior running back

Adam Lucero: Aztec (N.M.) junior quarterback

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State Player of the Year candidate in your state? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com or Twitter @ESPNHS_GPOY.