Aaron Cajero is on a mission.
The fate of the Santa Fe Indian School football team rests on his sturdy shoulders. He must deflect the cyclone of nervous anticipation swirling in this sweltering locker room before it destroys them all. The dark, windowless bunker is crammed with lockers, chairs and teenage boys jostling for position as they quietly cinch crimson belts, lace black cleats and wait for Cajero to provide salvation from the tension.
The senior tailback crouches on the floor of the small, suffocating room. His face is rigid with purpose and determination as he stares intently at the small portable stereo before him. A sparkle of recognition dances into his calm eyes. He leans forward and presses the play button.
I said a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hip hop and you don’t stop …
The room erupts with the throbbing beat of “Rapper’s Delight,” transforming the stoic war room into a riotous house party. Cajero cracks a smile and swaggers back to his locker. Sophomore lineman Robert Trujillo raises his arms and gives the air a comically vigorous spanking. Senior quarterback Miguel Rodriguez snaps his fingers and lets out a manic howl before busting a few dance moves capable of leaving would-be tacklers, if not teenage girls, reeling.
There is reason to celebrate. The Braves are undefeated and off to their best start since Jesus was slobbering in the manger. A win today will give the team its first winning season in nearly as long. And this game against Dulce is a big ‘un. Today is Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005. Homecoming.
It’s a pivotal moment for a historically abysmal football program that plummeted to such depths that the school it represents hadn’t bothered to host a homecoming game for years, until last season. Three years ago, the Braves had all of a dozen players on their varsity squad. SFIS still doesn’t have enough players to field a junior varsity team, and it’s rare their games get so much as a mention in the local sports pages. They nonetheless own the best record—if not the best team—in the city.
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This year marks SFR’s 40th anniversary. Celebrate with us by reading excerpts of stories that have graced our pages through the years. This week’s cover story discusses education for American Indian students.