Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
For the last seven years, all Berrendo Bulldogs’ football coach Ray Gutierrez has done is win. He’s won five of the last seven City Championships and been a feeder system to the Goddard Rockets’ freshman team. What the young boys that play for Gutierrez learn is that he cares about them and teaching the game the right way.
“Tempo. Tempo. Tempo,” shouted Berrendo head football coach Gutierrez to his team during practice Tuesday at the Wool Bowl. “Hey, Cesar, good coverage kid. Rider, you have to cover that from the inside out — keep your head on a swivel. Remember, you’re like a catcher at free safety — a catcher sees everything on a diamond. You need to put yourself in a spot so that you can see everything coming at you. I know it’s some big shoes to fill, but you’ll be alright.”
As practice winds down Tuesday, it is the last hard physical practice and the last time his team will hit before their first championship game against Clovis on Thursday. Gutierrez makes it a point to encourage both sides of the ball at the same time as teaching them.
The Bulldogs have gone undefeated and won their third consecutive city title. The only thing that stands in their way is that they will play for the inaugural Border Conference title. Rather than playing other local city teams twice before the city championship, eighth-grade middle school athletics now plays in the Border Conference featuring two divisions that include teams from all over the state.
With so much success at the lower levels of coaching football, many have wondered why he hasn’t applied for another higher profiled job. He has resisted because of his love for the game and coaching and teaching at the lower level.
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“I love these kids,” Gutierrez said. “I really love our program, administration and the parents. We’ve got great support over here and I’ve got a great staff working with me and they enjoy this level of ball. It is really a lot of fun watching these kids grow from sixth-graders to where they are now as eighth-graders, mentally, physically. So I see them come in as little guys and grow into what we have out here now.”
The increase in competition is a benefit to all athletes as they prepare for the next level in high school. For Berrendo football, the jump into the Border Conference thus far has been a resounding success. Berrendo opened the season with a 35-0 win over Sierra; followed that up with a 44-14 win over Mountain View, and then won their third straight city championship the following week after beating Mesa, 52-0.
Gutierrez leans heavily on his assistant coaches and offensive coordinator Chris Deck, and Special Teams coach Ed Henry runs the Special Teams and they make it a point of emphasis to practice Special Teams moves for the game.
Gutierrez feels like if they can win on Special Teams it will put pressure on his opponent to score. He also feels like on offense his team will only get so many plays on the field and he wants the Bulldogs to get extra touches during the game. If his Special Teams can be special, it will add up to more points and a chance to win the game.
“At our level,” Gutierrez said, “we only get so many opportunities. We have to create opportunities to score and our Special Teams is huge in creating them for us. Against Artesia this year we had four takeaways and six turnovers. Coach Henry does a great job of taking those kids and scheming those kids. We dedicate time to Special Teams every day.”
Week four saw Berrendo match up with Artesia in the Wool Bowl in front of a large crowd on a Saturday afternoon — Fans enjoyed a great show as Berrendo scored on offense, defense and Special Teams in a 61-24 blowout win. The next two games featured undefeated and extremely talented teams from Carlsbad — Blue and White.
Berrendo went on the road to play Carlsbad Blue and came away with a tough, physical win, 19-12. After giving Carlsbad Blue their first loss of the season, Berrendo faced Carlsbad White at DeBremond Stadium in a battle of 5-0 teams with the winner advancing to the Border Conference championship. Berrendo responded with perhaps their most complete game of the season, beating Carlsbad, 43-6 and winning the Western Division Border Conference with a perfect 6-0 record.
Berrendo now advances to the playoffs where they will play Clovis for the Border Conference Championship. Clovis is a perfect 6-0 on the season after winning the Eastern Border Conference and has only allowed 14 points the entire season, stifling the competition from Hobbs and Lovington. Since there was no playoff history between Berrendo and Clovis, a coin flip was conducted to see who would host the game and Berrendo won.
This is going to be like an old-fashioned football game because neither team has seen the film on the other, so it will be a read-your-keys type of game and hit. Berrendo runs a base defense of a 43 but can and will run the gamut of a 53 to a 34, to a 44, as well as a cover two and three, depending on what Clovis is showing him. Not a lot of middle schools can even run these defenses and switch to it.
Gutierrez feels like it is a team effort and will not single any player out, believing they all have stood out.
The one thing that Gutierrez believes in is instilling in his team to play with heart, hustle and work hard.
“I want our players,” Guttierrez said, “to have a work ethic, and humbleness about them and a next-play mentality all the way through. Something is going to happen, you’re (players) are gonna have mistakes; you’re gonna have things you can’t control, but forget about it and move on to the next play. Pick your brother up and get in the huddle, line up and play.”
As practice comes to a close, the players gather around Gutierrez and he delivered his last post-practice speech to his players. He feels like his players want to carry on the tradition of being city champs.
Gutierrez played center and defensive end for Jim Bradley at Roswell and is a ‘90 graduate. He never played college football, but each day he tries to impart Bradley’s mental toughness and a do-whatever-it-takes mentality. The other biggest thing Gutierrez learned from Bradley was the brotherhood of playing football together and for each other.
“I really stress the importance in education,” Guttierrez said, “to take care of business in the classroom, being leaders in the hallway and inside the building; be respectful.”
Clovis and Berrendo will play for the championship at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Wool Bowl.