Roswell football coach Jeff Lynn has been on the door step knocking the last three years to get into the championship game. This is his most experienced team and best chance to win with seniors in key positions.
Lynn and Belen coach Greg Henington share the same football philosophy, pedigree and grew up on New Mexico sidelines as kids keeping statistics for their dads. Both coach’s dads are in the New Mexico high school football Hall of Fame.
“We look at them and they’re kind of a mirror image of us,” Lynn said. “They have a big offensive line, and Casillas is a lot like Gabe (Najar). He has pretty good feet, vision and can run.”
For Roswell, this week was like preseason practice. There were no tricks, gimmicks, or surprises, it’s just what it will be at 2 p.m. Saturday. Buckle the chin strap tight, line up and hit. Belen will test the Coyotes manhood. It may have the feel of a preseason practice because of their similarities. However, this game is for the right to play in the Class 5A state championship against the winner of the Artesia- Farmington match up next week.
Both teams want to punish the opposing team’s defenses with brute power. There are differences between their running games.
When the Coyotes run the ball, they want to run laterally with Jasia Reese, Fiddy Gomez, Daniel Sosa, or Brandon Perez. Roswell is trying to stretch the field and wear their opponents down in the fourth quarter.
In last week’s game, Roswell used this technique to gas the Aztec’s defense late in the third quarter. Once that happened, they were able to run their “belly dive” with Najar up the middle for 279 yards. Roswell uses Najar to control the clock and ball, while giving their defense a chance to rest.
When Belen (11-0) has the ball, they’re not creative with formations or shifts, they don’t run a lot of motions. The Eagles want teams to know they’re going to run the ball behind their big offensive line and dare teams to stop Diego Casillas.
Casillas has rushed for 2,137 yards, and 27 touchdowns on the season. Not only will the Eagles run power football between the tackles; they will run a toss sweep.
“We have to stop the run game,” Lynn said, “We have to maintain and make sure we are not giving up the big play.
Roswell (8-3) was beaten earlier in the year by Belen on Sept. 22, 29-7. While the score might not indicate it was a close game, it was. In that game, Roswell was playing without starting quarterback Ethan Valenzuela. Valenzuela was out with an injury.
Belen stacked the box with 10 players against the Coyotes, daring Michael Ponce to throw the ball. With limited reps from practice Ponce was able to move the ball inside the Eagles 10-yard line twice, but could not score. Roswell was not at full strength in that game and played without six starters. Lynn noted everybody is back and healthy.
For the Coyotes to have a chance to win, they must withstand the early moments of the game. Najar will have to carry the ball more than 16 times and gain more than 68 yards.
Najar must be the Najar of last Saturday. In that game, he carried tacklers for yards after being hit.
Roswell must run the ball between 30-40 times, and throw it enough to keep Belen’s defense honest and allow running lanes to open.
Roswell cannot let Casillas run for the 297 yards like he did the last time they played. The Eagles ran the ball 45 times and passed it only five times. The Coyotes gave up over 400 yards of total offense.
The Eagles have great special teams, so the Coyotes must be ready for an onside kick either to start the game, or after a touchdown. Belen has run several fake punts during close games.
Finally, the Coyotes must keep their composure and not get penalties and extend drives. If Roswell allows the Eagles to stay on the field and run, they will wear Roswell down in the fourth quarter. Whichever team can impose its will on the other should win the game.
“I expect a much closer game this week, Lynn said. “I think we are ready to go.”