By James Staley: Las Cruces Sun-News
LAS CRUCES — Ah, the familiar sights of Mayfield football.
During a recent practice Trojan coach Jim Bradley growled at his kicker as David Bustillos and Chris Hernandez perfected the chemistry that has made them arguably the deadliest quarterback-wide receiver duo in the state and helped boost Mayfield to Saturday’s state title game against Clovis.
As the two played catch, Hernandez, Mayfield’s 6-foot-3 record-breaking receiver, was showing his small-yet-moble signal caller where he prefers to catch the ball on crossing patterns.
It’s hard to imagine Bustillos needs the help. The senior has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 2,242 yards, 18 touchdowns and — perhaps most impressive — just a single interception.
Nearly a quarter of Bustillos’ passes have landed in Hernandez’ hands, helping him to break 26-year-old school records for receptions (68) and receiving yards (1,051). At least four Division I-caliber receivers played at Mayfield during that time and Hernandez has posted better numbers than any of them and, as one coach said, “has better hands than all of them.”
As successful as Bustillos-to-Hernandez has been, it was, unlike Bradley’s chain saw voice box, hardly a recognizable part of MHS football just a year ago. Bustillos and Hernandez were probably better known for their achievements on the baseball diamond and basketball court respectively.
Skills, honed through years in these other sports, seem to have helped Bustillos and Hernandez excel in football this season.
“We went to a passing camp at UTEP,’ Bradley said. “ … They have a (quarterback) drill where you have to throw from the side and off the wrong foot and all this other stuff. Busti can do all of that. He makes throws a lot of guys can’t — and he’s accurate.”
Sound a bit like the skills of a veteran infielder?
The nimbleness, hands and leaping ability that made Hernandez one of the Trojan basketball teams top rebounders have contributing to his numbers as a wideout. Hernandez has gained a reputation for boxing out and jumping over defensive backs for big gains and touchdowns.
“Chris committed himself to the game of football like he never has this summer,” Bustillos said. “He has a great knack for making the big play.”
Mayfield offensive coordinator Gary Bradley said the same thing about Bustillos.
“He just loves to have the ball in his hands and makes good decisions,” Gary Bradley said.
Yet another thing the duo has in common: Neither sees themselves as a star, which contributes to a “selfless” team, Jim Bradley said.
“I’m trying to fill my role on the team,” Hernandez said. “If that means I’m a go-to guy that’s fine. If it means I have to make a tackle on defense or block, that’s fine too.”
Sun-News reporter Felix Chavez contributed to this report