HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Greenwood’s Gutierrez named Defensive Player of Year

Breaking records and helping the Rangers go far in the playoffs, Greenwood linebacker Michael Gutierrez has made quite a resume for himself during these past four years.

He ends it all with the All-Permian Basin Defensive Player of the Year award after a season that included a team-high total of 148 tackles. His totals also included three sacks and two interceptions.

“It means a lot,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve put in a lot of work. I’ve played football since third grade and it feels good to see my work pay off and to see this honor.”

Last year, Gutierrez was a strong force on the Rangers’ defense, helping his team to a state semifinal appearance in Class 4A Division II with a 14-1 record.

Greenwood wasn’t able to get as far in the playoffs this year as the Rangers went 6-4 and were knocked out of the area round of the playoffs, but Gutierrez still had a successful season on an individual level.

Against Pecos, the 6-foot, 215 pound senior broke the school’s single-game tackles record with 24 in the Rangers’ district opener on Oct. 2 at J.M. King Memorial Stadium.

He finished the night with nine solo tackles and 15 assists to better the mark of 23 that was set by John Mark Hopper in 2002.

Gutierrez also had one tackle for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery against the Eagles in the Rangers’ 39-10 win.

It was a record that Gutierrez had set to break for the last two years.

“I had been working on that since I got on varsity my sophomore year,” Gutierrez said. “I was looking at the records that I wanted to break and that was always the number one record. I came close last year against Pecos.”

He wasn’t even aware of his accomplishment until the next day at practice.

“I didn’t realize it until the next day when we watched film,” Gutierrez said. “I had been taken out in the third quarter so I didn’t know. I knew that I had a lot but didn’t know that I had broken it.”

The biggest memory that stands out for him is still last year’s playoff run as Gutierrez was part of a Greenwood team that made its deepest playoff run in nearly 20 years.

“It hadn’t been done in so long,” Gutierrez said. “It was great to be with my team and to be a helping member. It was really exciting. That’s probably the best memory for me.”

With the way everything happened in the offseason because of the pandemic and not knowing whether or not there would be a season this year, Gutierrez was glad to be able to have a senior season of football.

“With COVID, it hit everyone hard,” Guiterrez said. “We were scared that we wouldn’t be able to play and that there would be no football. It was a blessing to be able to go out there and have most of our games played. It was a real blessing to do that because some teams weren’t able to play as many games as we were.”

He’s earned plenty of praise from his coach Rusty Purser.

“Michael is an outstanding high school football player,” Purser said. “He’s one of those guys who does everything that you ask of him.”

Purser and his defensive coaches are tasked with having to replace him, a job that might be easier said than done.

“He’s going to be the biggest loss to our football team once he graduates,” Purser said. “He’s just one of those kids who you do not realize how valuable he is until he’s gone. Michael’s that kind of kid. He’s an exceptional playmaker on the grass and exceptional everywhere else including the classroom and in public.”

As for Gutierrez, he plans on going to Texas Tech University to study mechanical engineering, but he’s never going to forget all the lessons that he learned from his football career.
“I learned that it’s more than a game and that it was being there with my best friends for years and doing the best that I can,” Gutierrez said. “Having that connection with everyone was special.”