LLHS taps Texas coach for football post

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The Los Lunas High School football team will get a bit of a West Texas flavor next season as the district has hired former Lubbock High assistant coach Duane Toliver to take over as head coach next season.

Toliver, a Texas Tech grad who was most recently the defensive coordinator at Lubbock High, has 14 years of experience coaching in West Texas and was a rising name in coaching circles that football-crazed area according to Los Lunas Schools Athletic Director Wilson Holland.

Photo courtesy of Duane Toliver DUANE TOLIVER, center, former defensive coordinator at Lubbock (Texas) High School, was recently named head football coach at Los Lunas High School.

“Coach Toliver has been up for two pretty high-profile jobs in West Texas,” Holland said. “So to have the opportunity to have someone like that available in the month of May is not something you find often.”

Toliver said Los Lunas’ recent success under former head coach Jeremy Newton, as well as the school’s overall success, is what drew him to the job.

Newton led the Tigers to a 30-7 record in his three years and took LLHS all th way to the Class 4A State Title game last season before leaving to become head coach at West Fargo (N.D.) Sheyenne High School

“I was attracted by the fact that Los Lunas wins at everything,” Toliver said in a phone interview Monday. “The baseball team went deep baseball into state, boys basketball went deep, girls basketball won state.

“It’s obvious there are lots of things being done right within the community and the school system because winning is not an accident,” he said.

Toliver spent the last five years at Lubbock High and was defensive coordinator the past four. Last season, the Westerners broke a two-year winless streak to finish 4-8 and make the Texas Class 4A Division II playoffs — the school’s first playoff berth in 37 years.

Toliver who graduated from tiny Texas Class A Knox City, worked his way up the depth chart as a defensive lineman for Texas Tech University from 1996 to 2000, becoming a solid contributor for the Red Raiders.

He started his coaching career at Lubbock Cooper High School as an offensive line coach the year after graduating and then moved on to Midland Lee High for three years as a running backs coach.

After a four-year stint at Shallowwater High, where he coached alongside renowned former Lovington High coach Speedy Faith, Toliver landed at Lubbock High.

Holland said 10 coaches applied for the LLHS position and four finalists were interviewed before the school’s hiring committee recommended Toliver to Superintendent Bernard Saiz.

Two in-state prospects made the final four — Las Vegas Robertson assistant head football coach Adrian Gonzales and Eric Brock, athletic director at Albuquerque’s Native American Community Academy.

The Los Lunas post will be Toliver’s first as head coach. He said he anticipates no problems adjusting to high school football outside of Texas.

“Everything I’ve heard is that New Mexico wants to play West Texas-type football,” Toliver said. “West Texas has more hard-nosed kids, and hard-working kids. Everything I’ve heard about New Mexico kids is that they’re exactly the same.”

Toliver promised his team would be “exciting and aggressive,” saying he had equal experience running both the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses in his career.

“What I’ve learned over years is that the offensive and defensive sets mirror your kids,” he said. “So it’s not about what you’re going to do. It’s about playing to the kids’ strengths.”

Toliver would not elaborate on the style of offensive he planned to use, but said it would be “fun and exciting.”

“The kids will enjoy playing my offensive system and I think people will enjoy watching it,” he said.

Toliver said the challenges of replacing the team’s talented departing seniors would be large, but he said he has faith in the nucleus of the team that remains. He also plans to keep LLHS’s coaching staff mostly in tact.

“You don’t play for a state championship you don’t have guys who don’t know what they’re doing (on staff),” Toliver said. “So I’ll be working with a lot of the staff there now and bring in a few pieces of my own.”