Las Cruces High School Senior Brandon Baeza was recently named Gatorade’s 2017-18 New Mexico Football Player of the Year. Baeza, a wide receiver and defensive back for the LCHS Bulldawgs, is the first player from Las Cruces High School to win that award since Franklin Hamilton in 2001.

Brandon Baeza

Brandon Baeza

“It’s great to see such a talented student athlete recognized for his accomplishments on and off the field,” LCPS Executive Director of Athletics Ernie Viramontes. “We look forward to seeing all the great things Brandon will undoubtedly accomplish in the future.”

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Baeza as New Mexico’s best high school football player, according to a Gatorade news release.

During the past football season, Baeza caught 41 passes for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns, leading the Bulldawgs to the Class 6A state semifinals. Baeza also rushed for 496 yards and six touchdowns, passed for 114 yards and two scores and returned two punts for touchdowns. Defensively, Baeza recorded 22 tackles and two interceptions. He was also a First Team All-State selection as a wide receiver and cornerback in 2016.

As a member of his local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Baeza has volunteered locally with the Special Olympics and as a youth football coach. In addition, Baeza has maintained a 3.54 GPA in the classroom, according to a Gatorade new release.

As a Gatorade Player of the Year, Baeza received a trophy for himself and his school and will remain in the running for the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year, which will be announced in December. Baeza will also select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a $1,000 grant as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program.

In addition, Baeza will have the opportunity to nominate his chosen organization for an additional $10,000 spotlight grant by writing a brief essay explaining why their selected organization deserves additional support. 12 spotlight grants – one for each sport – will be announced throughout the year.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport, according to a Gatorade news release.

-LCPS Communications Coordinator Paul Dahlgren, pdahlgren@lcps.net, (575) 527-5808