Chaves County sports fans hope all of your teams did well and are playing in the extra season called playoff football. After last week’s heart-stopper between Goddard and Roswell, I’m sure the playoffs will be just as exciting.
Several teams took care of business during the regular season and it came down to a last stand for Roswell to win the game with 1:31 to play on a forced fumble, as Roswell hung on to win 24-21 and earn a district championship outright in head coach Jeff Lynn’s sixth season.
Roswell captured the No. 1 seed overall in 5A, with Goddard garnering the No. 2 — this gives both teams a first-round bye this week as the other teams fight for their playoff lives. Let’s not forget the other local team that did work this season and earned a No. 2 seed overall and will be relaxing this week — the Dexter Demons, who finished the season, 8-2 and won their district.
Another team that improved dramatically was the Hagerman Bobcats. They made the playoffs in coach Guy Rivers’ first season winning four games, four more than they won in their last two seasons combined. Hagerman has a way to go after getting beaten in the first round on Saturday by Texico, 36-0.
Two of the surprise teams this season bounced back with a vengeance, one being New Mexico Military Institute, who put a winless 2017 season behind them to make the playoffs. Head coach Randy Montoya in his eighth season brought out the Oakie to the doakie and went to an old offense, the wishbone. That allowed his team to control the ball and take time off the clock. They finished the season 6-4.
The only local game this week will be when Gateway Christian takes on Mesilla Valley. The Warriors earned the No. 1 seed in eight-man football and have to be the odds-on favorite to win the title. It all starts against the SonBlazers, whom they defeated, 58-7 on Oct. 5 at Warrior Field. Gateway Christian went 7-1 in the regular season and was only tested against the Melrose team they lost to 38-36.
Coach Wigley knows that being the No.1 team is nice and it shows that they had a good regular season, but none of that matters now. It is a new season in which one loss ends their season.
“We’ve got to be at our best each week,” Wigley said. “If not, it will end early for us.”
Wigley has loved coaching this group of seniors, each with a unique personality. Wigley feels like all of them are good-hearted young men and feels like they are ready to move on in life.
“The key leaders in this group has been Jaydon Stephens, Jacob Truetken, Greg Estes and Wyatt Arlet,” Wigley said. “They (seniors) bring a lot of passion and work ethic to the group and keep us pointed in the right direction.”
While this run for the Blue Trophy is important to Wigley, it is the process, noting that it has been a while since they have won it.
“Honestly,” Wigley said, “what drives us coaches is to see these young men set goals and go out and earn them. Trophies are great and obviously, the goal is to win, when you do get a group that can put it all together and it culminates in a Blue Trophy it’s special. I’d love for every young man I coach to get that feeling but that’s never the case, so I just tell them if they leave it all out there and play to the best of their ability, they will be able to walk off and hold their heads high no matter the results.”
The Warriors have missed some games because teams have had to forfeit. Wigley feels like it has hurt his team’s development as far as getting the reps they need to be fresh for district play.
‘The reality is that adversity is something you either overcome or give in to,” Wigley said. “We just have to push forward to put ourselves in a position to finish this thing.”
NMMI at Hatch Valley
NMMI head coach Randy Montoya and his Colt football team are back in the playoffs for their fifth time in six years.
This season, the Colts have put together a solid 6-4 overall record, earning the No. 10 seed in the twelve-team NMAA Class 3A State Championship bracket. They’ll face the No. 7 Hatch Valley Bears, on the road, on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 1:00 PM.
“I think the seeding was just about right,” said coach Montoya about the Class 3A bracket, “that’s just where we had our team placed as well.”
This will be the third match-up in the opening round of state between Colts and Bears, with Hatch taking both previous contests on their home turf: 64-42 in 2016, and 27-10 in 2014.
“We’ve got a tough opponent – seems like the past two or three years that we’ve gone to the playoffs, we’ve been in Hatch. So we’re familiar with the area,” continued Montoya. “They’ve got a good team, I think we’ve got a good team, so should be a good showdown.”
NMMI is coming off a big road win against district opponent Tucumcari where the Colt offense produced 43 points and broke open big holes for senior backs Jalil Brown and Charles Lewis, who combined for 275 yards on just 19 carries.
“I think it was important to get back on that winning track,” emphasized Montoya. “That helped build the confidence of our kids, and made us realize that we still are a good team despite the ups and downs that all teams tend to have over the course of a season. It gives us some momentum going into the playoffs.”
The Hatch Valley Bear offense runs multiple formations to throw teams off guard, and they do a good job at it.
“Our defense is going to have to recognize those formations in order to stop them,” said Montoya.
Defensively, the Bears run a flex nose – sort of a “difference between a 5-2 and a 5-3,” said the NMMI coach. “Their front line is solid with a nose guard that is really tough and linebackers that flow really well. It will be a good test for our O-line.”
The Colt offense has amassed 2,025 total yards of offense this season and a 4.2-yard average per play, thanks to a quartet of excellent rushers in the backfield.
Tailback Brown leads the running attack with 650 yards on 79 carries; halfback Lewis has 550 yards on 85 attempts; fullback Gus Curnutt pounded out 279 yards on 64 chances; and quarterback Jasper Best has scrambled for 222 yards on 82 rushes.
“Without having a quarterback, we’ve been having to switch things up on offense these past few weeks, said Montoya about his own offensive unit and game plan. “But we’ll show multiple fronts, see if we can take advantage of anything they’ll give us on defense.”
The Colt defense is led by linebacker Arturo Cuen’s 46 tackles and Roberto Laporte’s four sacks.
NMMI typically runs a split 4-4. “We’ll mix things up with our split,” said Montoya, “try and run some blitzes and see what we can do depending on the formations they come out in.”
When asked about the keys to the game, coach Montoya stressed the turnover factor.
“In big games like this, we’ve got to take care of the ball – turnovers are going to be huge. And again, recognizing formations: lining up correctly so that we don’t get out leveraged. We also need all three aspects of the game to play well: the offense needs to take care of the ball, the defense needs to be aggressive, and the special teams can’t take any plays off.”
“We’re excited about this opportunity, hoping to do something that hasn’t been done around here in about 14 years – that’s win a playoff game. That’s what we’re shooting for,” finished the coach. “We’ve have a good week in practice, so I think we’re up for the challenge.”