Returning to his roots: Stovall to take over Aztec football program
By Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi
Special to the Times
After years of moving up and down the state of New Mexico, Eric Stovall has returned to a very familiar place.
The former Newcomb High School coach tucked away his Skyhawks gear and is now the head football coach for Aztec High School.
Stovall, a native of Las Cruces, who planted his roots in Aztec just over a decade ago found an opportunity to return home when the head coach position became available earlier this year.
“I felt like this is an opportunity to apply and compete in one of the most prestigious football programs in New Mexico,” he said. “Having previously coached at Aztec, it’s a great opportunity to come back and continue to do the best we can as a coaching staff to move forward in a positive direction.”
Just over a decade ago, Stovall moved from southern New Mexico, where he coached in the Lovington area, to Aztec with his family.
Stovall said family and career opportunities were the prime reasons he moved to northern New Mexico years ago. They were also heavily considered when he took the gig at Aztec.
“My daughter is going to start middle school; family is the number one priority. That was the initial drive that I had to come back to Aztec,” he said.
Stovall served as an assistant to Brad Hirsch who coached the Tigers from 2004 to 2011 and coached the team to three state runner-up finishes as well as a state title in 2011 (the last time Aztec won a state title).
He said he assistant with special teams, full backs, receivers, and many other positions.
Stovall said the experience eventually led him to his own success as a head coach years later.
“I got to coach various positions as a positions coach,” he said. “It really helps you move forward as a coach.”
Stovall took over the Shiprock High School football program in 2015 and coached from 2015-2017. He led Shiprock to earn two district titles before moving on to coach at Newcomb High School. He coached at Newcomb from 2018 to 2019, earning the team a district title this past season. Stovall also coached in the playoffs since coaching on the reservation in 2015.
He has had a total of 37 wins and 18 losses with coaching at Shiprock and Newcomb. At Newcomb, he coached the team and the program to its first 10-win season in school history and its first playoff victory in 2018 against Lordsburg.
Stovall said he’s learned a lot from his coaching experiences, especially those at Newcomb and Shiprock.
He said he’ll take a lot of what he’s learned over the years with him as he takes over one of the powerhouse football programs in the state.
“I think that when you have the ability to coach in a smaller community and you work with a very proud group of parents and community like Shiprock and Newcomb…you take that and move it to the 4A level it’s the foundation that you built your own coaching philosophy on,” Stovall said. “Taking that and now going to Aztec, we do what we do to take care of the little things and build upon that success.”
Aztec has been a constant in the state playoffs year after year, and it’s something Stovall said he hopes to continue.
He said the program is much different than the previous programs he’s coached but he’s looking forward to the new experience.
“Coming back over here to Aztec there is a winning tradition, the expectations are high, there’s an expectation of being the best we can as a family and as a Tiger team,” he said.
Stovall said he’s working with coaches all the way down to the YAFL programs in Aztec and with all the youth teams in between. He said it’s important when taking over a program like Aztec.
“That’s essential and huge moving down and forward, those are our future Tigers,” he said. “Just continue to have fun, compete, earn good grades, and be proud to wear orange and black.”
Stovall said he’s had plenty of time to plan and once the team is allowed to start practicing and putting in off-season work, he’ll be ready.
He said they’ll be in the weight room over the summer, compete in 7 on 7s, and he’ll have his coaching staff ready to prepare them.
Stovall said he’s ready as he’s ever been and looks forward getting on the field this fall.
“I’m excited, I’m ready to start tomorrow. I’m so excited to work back at home, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “The games on Friday nights, under the lights, are exciting but it’s the process, the body of work in the summer that I’m excited about.”
Stovall said he’s looking to compete for a district title with his new team and at making a deep run into the state playoffs.