5A football fans, you can’t get much more excitement than this Friday night at the Wool Bowl. The No. 1 team in 5A, the Roswell Coyotes make their first appearance of the season at home when they take on the No. 3 team in the state in what looks to have playoff implications not only for this game but down the road.
My, how the tables have turned. Coming into this game last season, Roswell was ranked the No. 5 team in the state and was questioning a lot about themselves. They were coming off a shellacking from the hands of Hobbs at home, 42-20.
After the loss to Hobbs last season, the Coyotes, 1-1, had to go on the road and play the No. 1 team in the state: the Los Lunas Tigers. Los Lunas had perhaps the best quarterback in the state in Nick Gaerlan, who was a great athlete that could run and throw. He potentially posed problems for the Coyote defense.
The difference this season for Los Lunas is quarterback Kade Benavidez, who has a year in the system as he took over for Gaerlan when Gaerlan was injured in the Roswell game. Benavidez was able to have a good season and led the Tigers to the championship game against Roswell. Roswell looks to replicate what they did to Benavidez in the championship game at the Wool Bowl. They hope to pressure him and hurry his throws. If Benavidez can get time to throw the ball, look for him to spot the dangerous and speedy Andrue Garcia.
Los Lunas lost to Clovis on the road in the second game of the season. Tigers’ coach Jeremy Maupin didn’t feel like his team played a complete game on both sides of the ball in their only loss.
“I believe that our expectations should always be high,” Tigers’ coach Maupin said. “We want to win a championship, so that is the goal. I think our schedule is pretty tough, so we know every week we have to play really well and we have to do that to beat a really good Roswell team this week.”
On offense, Los Lunas will still run the spread, Artesia North — with running backs Derek Chavez and Cesar Ortega Meza getting the carries when they run the ball up the middle. On defense, Los Lunas hired a new defensive coordinator and will run a new defense this season.
“Our special teams are getting better each week,” Maupin said. “Kade, our QB, is really taking it to another level, so we are excited about him. We are excited to play a really good team within our classification and will do our best to make it a good game.”
Roswell will not overlook the Tigers. In a rematch of the championship game, look for Los Lunas to attack the Coyotes on the ground and up the middle. Roswell’s defense is improving and it will get the biggest test of the season on Friday night.
No one has been able to stop Roswell’s offense or special teams. It was in last year’s game that the Coyotes broke out the “Starburst” as Xavier Gonzales opened the second half of a close game and returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
Roswell has yet to punt on the season, and in the last game, they turned the ball over three times. So far, none of the three turnovers had against Hobbs has hurt them.
Roswell has the most explosive offense in the state and that starts with trigger man, senior Dominic Nava. Nava has an extra burst once he makes a defender miss to get to the secondary in a hurry.
He can also throw the ball deep and is connecting on a high percentage of his passes. Roswell likes to run the bubble screen on third and fourth downs and also will throw the slant to Jasia Reese or Joel “Mr. Everything” Sanchez.
Two to three times a game, Nava will air it out deep to Reese just to keep defenses honest. In every game Reese has been able to get behind defenses. A lot of times Nava will throw the ball down the line to Reese and allow him to use his athletic ability and make a man miss.
Reese has done that in every game this season. A lot of times on key downs, they will run the jet sweep. Look for a lot of Joel Renteria between the tackles and a lot of Roderick Sedillo and Angel Caballero for the tough yards inside.
Roswell’s defense won the game for them last week. They stopped them twice on two-point conversions and hurried Hobbs’ quarterback Jarren Lewis into bad plays. Roswell wants to play pinball football and put up a lot of points to keep the pressure on opposing offenses. The key to tonight’s game will be Roswell’s defense.
Last season, this was the game when Roswell’s special teams turned … um, Special. That’s when they introduced the “Starburst” formation as Xavier Gonzales took an opening second-half kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, which turned the game into Roswell’s favor.
In a meeting of unbeaten teams, Goddard will face another physical football team in Portales as they hit the road for the second time this season. In last year’s game, Goddard’s defense controlled all-state quarterback Julian Urioste, who ran the spread and the speed option. He was the team’s leading rusher last season. Last year’s running back Baylor Diaz is now the quarterback and will run the ball.
Leading ground carrier is Romero Gbassagee who has rushed for 246 yards against St. Michael’s on 16 carries and then last week hit West Las Vegas up for 132 yards on 11 totes. On the season, he has 397 yards on 31 carries and leads the team in touchdowns with seven. When they throw the ball, they like to share it to multiple receivers, but the leading receiver is senior Kellan Hightower with eight catches for 252 yards and two TDs. Last year, they mixed in the 50 looks on defense with a 43 look at times.
Goddard has surrendered only six points and that’s on a pick-six. Their defense has not been scored on yet this season. On offense, the team has rolled in different running backs to stay fresh. The key to the team this season is their offensive and defensive lines.
Goddard’s strength has been both O and D lines. They have not given up a touchdown on defense and have been hard to run on. On offense, they will continue to play methodical Goddard football and try to wear opponents down and keep the game close. Goddard comes into the game as the No. 2 ranked team in 5A, according to Max Preps.
Goddard should expect a tough physical game from the No. 1 ranked team in 4A.
Dexter at Hatch Valley
Like a broken record, Dexter the No. 1 ranked team in 3A, will play Hatch Valley for the third time in two seasons. Last year, they played them in the regular-season game, winning 35-6 at home in the fourth week of the season and in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, 35-14, on their way to winning the state title.
Second-year coach Arturo Duran has been the hand in the glove fit for this team, school and community. Duran is a player-coach who is able to reach the modern athlete of today. He has turned the offense over to Marvin Johnson, Jr., as quarterback. Johnson has made all of the right moves and not turned the ball over. He is yet to throw an interception on the season.
Johnson is a distributor with the ball, as he reads what the defenses are giving him. The team’s leading ground-gainer is Ricardo Contreras with 250 yards on 25 carries and two TDs. He also has two other backs that are capable of going the distance in Martin Meraz who has 195 yards on 28 carries and the other three-headed monster for their wishbone attack is Tyler Brisco who has 125 yards on 18 carries.
Dexter has thrown the ball only eight times this season and they don’t want to throw it at all if they have to throw the ball consistently, that means they’re behind. It all starts and stops with their offensive line, and all-state candidate P.J. Austin might be the baddest man in 3A high school. He is certainly the meanest. He will be receiving offers to play at the next level should he choose to do so next season.
Hatch Valley coach Louis Howell wants to run the spread offense and will move to a single wing as well. It reminds coach Duran of Santa Rosa’s offense. Hatch Valley does try to be balanced in their scheme 50-50 pass to run. On defense, they will run a 34 defense with a cover-two look in the defensive backfield.
Hagerman at NMMI
It’s been a few years since the New Mexico Military Institute Colt football team started off a season at a 3-0 clip, four to be exact. In the 2015 fall football campaign, the Colts galloped off to a 6-0 start, using a veteran offensive line and several quality skill-backs to simply outscore opponents.
Similar to 2015, this year’s Colt squad boosts both the experience on the O-line and the ability to explode on offense. But the 2019 Colts are playing back down at 3A. They also have a much more balanced offensive attack and an overall more agile defense.
On Friday, at Colt Field on the NMMI campus, head coach Randy Montoya and his Colts will put their undefeated 3-0 record on the line, taking on the 2-1 Hagerman Bobcats in a 7 p.m. showdown to prove who truly is the “pearl of the Pecos” – at least with regard to football American-style.
“Hagerman’s got a scrappy bunch,” said NMMI coach Montoya. “They do every year: hard-nosed kids who go hard ‘til the whistle. Not very big in overall size, but they run hard, play hard, like the game was meant to be played. After all, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. They’ve got some very good athletes, so we’re gonna have our hands full again this week.”
And coach Montoya should know, considering he was the head coach of the Hagerman Bobcat team that won the Class A title in 2010, before moving on to tackle the head job at the Institute.
“They’ll line up in just a few formations and just run right at us, so we’re going to have to be ready, especially up front on the line,” continued Montoya. “Defensively, they’ve got a free safety that flows hard, along with a Mike (middle line) backer. They’re very aggressive and will load up the box. To counter, we’ll see if they can spread them out a bit and maybe catch them off guard.”
Montoya thinks it’s going to be another good battle on Friday, although the forecasted weather may throw a monkey-wrench into any of his preconceived game plans.
“I think our kids are ready to go,” said the coach. “We had a good week in practice – and weather permitting, our game plan will stay intact. But regardless of the weather, both teams will have to play in the same conditions.”
And, as always, coach Montoya thinks that turnovers will loom large in the contest. “If the weather becomes a factor like it’s supposed to, then turnovers are going to be huge. We’ve also got to line-up correctly (on defense). That was kind of our Achilles’ heel that led to a few too many big plays for the Wolverines last week.”
The Wolverines out-did the Colts in total yards of offense last week – 276 total combined yards for Texico vs. NMMI’s 174 – yet NMMI still cranked out an 11-point win, 32-21, thanks to some big plays on offense and defense.
Montoya hopes his team can shore up the mistakes and miscues while continuing to capitalize on any of the same opportunities offered up by opponents.
“Think it’s going to be another tough game,” Hagerman coach Guy Rivers said. “They’re another ranked 3A school. NMMI is very well-coached. Hopefully, my kids can respond a little better than they did last week.”
Rivers’ scrappy team has made believers out of a lot of people. A win against the fourth-ranked team in 3A would go a long way in helping them toward the playoffs. Hagerman comes into the game ranked No. 9 in 2A. Fans should expect a close game just like last year when NMMI won, 17-8. Hagerman has to be thinking upset and that they can win.
NMMI knows that they have to keep pace with the No. 1 team in the state in Dexter as they have a showdown looming
Gateway Christian has a bye this week.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.