ELKO – Senior quarterback Alex Puentes, Elko High School’s all-time leader for total offense, will take his talents to Bethany College and small-town Lindsborg, Kansas – hoping to show the Swede faithful he has big-time game.
During the 2015 season, he shared I-A North Offensive MVP honors with Spring Creek junior quarterback Jon Jund. Puentes, a true dual-threat quarterback, threw for 1,066 yards for 13 touchdowns – rushing for 939 yards and eight more scores.
Puentes led the Indians to an 8-3 record and berth in the state semifinal against Moapa Valley – splitting time at quarterback last season with graduated Jacob Conklin – a season in which Elko finished 9-2 and also lost to the Pirates in the state semifinal.
He finished his career with 1,770 yards passing for 20 touchdowns, 1,485 rushing yards for 14 TDs, catching a 37-yard touchdown as a junior.
Puentes’ new precedent of 3,282 yards of total offense smashed the previous EHS record held by 2015 graduate and running back Jason Wilson’s mark of 2,541 yards, shattering the record that stood for less than a year.
Bethany head coach Paul Hubbard, entering his second season at the helm, runs a spread offense – a great setup for an athletic, scrambling quarterback like Puentes.
Last year, the Swedes finished with a 3-8 record, losing senior quarterback Virgil Bridges to graduation, so Puentes should figure to be in the mix for competing for reps at the position.
Puentes and his mother, Jennifer, visited Bethany on Jan. 30 – feeling the school was right for Alex moving forward in his schooling and football career.
“The coaches all seemed pretty sincere, and the weight room was really good,” said Puentes.
Jennifer Puentes added the “campus was really nice.”
Alex Puentes said he came into contact with Bethany’s program by sending an email after the end of Elko’s season in late November, getting replies and eventually texts from the coaches.
He had a scholarship offer before Christmas.
Another school, Mayville State in North Dakota, was also vying for Puentes’ talents – but he never made a visit to the campus.
His parents are happy with his decision, as father Alex Puentes Sr. said Bethany seems “like a good place, better than other schools we scouted.”
Lindsborg is definitely a college town, with a population of only 3,500. Bethany is an NAIA team – competing in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC). Bethany College also offers four-year degrees, which is important to the Puentes family.
“I want to major in secondary education, probably in history,” said Alex Puentes Jr. “There is a town of about 50,000 people half an hour away, Salina. Lindsborg is kind of like the White Rock of Elko.”
While the trip is a long one, Alex Sr. and Jennifer plan to make the journey to Lindsborg – which is three hours southwest of Kansas City, Kansas, and an hour north of Wichita, Kansas.
“I’ll go watch him,” said Alex Puentes Sr.
“We are going to hit as many games as we can,” said Jennifer Puentes.
One person who thinks Puentes will make a solid transition into collegiate football is Elko coach Luke Sellers, who has spent much time watching him grow as a quarterback, football player and a man.
“Alex just loves to play, and he is very coachable. He wants to learn. There are a lot of kids who can play, but he really put in the work and accepted splitting time with Jake Conklin as a junior,” Sellers said. “Someone may be able to critique plays, but you can never knock him as a person. He’s a great kid. He really accepted a leadership role his senior season after Benton Wickersham went down. Alex has done everything we have ever asked of him. He will be sorely missed, but he’ll continue to do a great job at Bethany.”
As Elko will attempt to fill the record-setting shoes of Puentes in the fall, Bethany College will benefit from the talents and extraordinary character of Alex Puentes on the gridiron and off of it.