Roswell is in the enviable position of being admired by some teams and loathed by others. Opponents want to make a name by beating Roswell. For some teams, their season is made by beating Roswell. Now, when they beat Roswell, it is like a major upset, even in District 4-5A.
Roswell basketball coach Moses “Dude” Burrola, in his third season, has answered his critics, with win totals of 20, 17 and 19, the last two years being in District 4-5A.
In their last game of the season, Roswell proved they can play with the big dogs. Not only that, but his steady influence kept them in the race as seven players were out for disciplinary action. It seemed to be devastating at the time, but it gave other players a chance to step up.
The Coyote faithful have to be happy that they have closed the distance with the upper-tier teams. In a rematch against Oñate, a 54-49 loss, Roswell had them on the ropes, but they were not able to score for the first 5 minutes and 30 seconds in the third quarter as Oñate went on an 11-0 run.
“We played Oñate really tough,” Coach Burrola said. “We just fell short. We have the players and the ability to beat these teams. We are the smallest team in 5A, I believe we are on the right track and can beat those guys.”
Roswell is good enough right now to be perennially ranked anywhere between No. 5-12 in 5A. What they have to do to close the distance is one thing, no one can teach or coach is size. Roswell can trap, press and run with any of the top teams — the difference is they don’t have big bodies, 6-foot-5 or bigger, that can mash down low.
Burrola has his signature win, when the Coyotes came back and beat Clovis at home this season, 57-54 in overtime. The next step for him is to beat one of the powerhouses at home and then on the road. This program is building to the level of competing with the top-level teams in 5A. It will just take time.
“I think we are on the right track,” he said. “We are playing the opponents we need to reach our ultimate goal. I’m proud of my guys for hanging in against the best in the state. We just need to realize we can beat these teams. Seeds one through 13 could have won the tournament.”
One of the things that Roswell missed was having a home playoff game. A win here, a win there and they might have drawn a different opponent. Once the team is able to practice again, look for them to continue to get faster and stronger.
Last season “Dude” changed the offense — it remains to be seen if he will do so this year. He will have to replace Jasia Reese, Dominic Nava, Xavier Sosa and Cristian De la O, among others. Each of these seniors brought a different dynamic to the team. Reese was cat-like quick. He could steal the ball and get to the rim. Sosa was underrated as the off guard.
De la O made second-team all-district. He was solid and had a good high school career. Nava was instant offense and could have been the team’s best player in spots. He was able to get to the cup. He could create his own shot and he could stop on a dime and take the three. He led the comeback against Clovis. All game long he was cold and was in and out of the lineup — and with the game on the line, he hit a jumper to get himself and the team going, forcing overtime.
What Roswell will have to replace is that. The “It” factor. Nava was just cold-blooded. The Coyotes will have to replace him and his swag. They will need a guy that can miss all game long and yet have enough confidence to keep taking the big shot when it counts.
Roswell’s best candidate has to be Taymon “Iron Man” Burrola. He made first-team all-district this season. Taymon Burrola needs to score at least 20 points a game and still facilitate to get other players going. For Taymon, this is his last year, and he has to have the attitude that this is his team, and the Coyotes will go as he goes.
He is a coach on the floor and one of the best leaders they have returning. Taymon almost has to pull a Brandon Montanez of Goddard. Montanez took over games and drove to the basket in key moments of the game. He was able to pull up and take shots no matter the time or score. Burrola has to have that attitude.
In order for the Coyotes to close the gap, they will need to get back to running more and taking threes. They still need to drive to the basket and try and draw fouls, but when they were at their best, they ran a drive-and-kick scheme.
Former Coyote Tarren Burrola was able to shoot himself out of slumps and get them back in games. This upcoming season they need to do that.
Depending on their work this summer, this trio has the potential to be special from three-land: Noel Chacon, Hector Tarin, and Juan Ybarra — these kids are making one big three away from having enough confidence to have a special season.
On the inside, with the three-game suspensions, one of the best surprises late in the season was Anthony Ortega. Against Clovis, he played tough against 6-foot-6 Bryce Cabeldue as the two banged bodies. Ortega is simply a breath of fresh air. If he continues to work on his game and hits the weights, he has a chance to be off the charts.
Roswell could form a front line of Ortega, Alonzo Acosta and TJ Fletcher. If they can mesh together and perform, they will give “Dude” a lot of options. This lineup would give him multiple go-to athletes in the post and more depth than he has had inside since he has taken over as coach. This group should be able to keep the ball alive on the offensive end of the floor.
This could be a scary, athletic team. “Dude” is going to play a lot of players, so they are fresh come district and state playoff time.
In the game against Oñate, Talon Sanders and Freddie Anaya played with a physicality and limited the Knights. They have to bring that same football intensity to each and every game. Sanders is able to get to the rim and has the quickness to pull up and get his own shot. Anaya is and was tenacious off the bench. Look for him to continue to see plenty of playing time and to get better.
At one point, Roswell had played the top 16 teams in 5A. They didn’t dodge anyone. With the exception of a couple of games, Roswell competed hard and was in most games. Las Cruces won the 5A title. Roswell has always played them tough.
Since moving to 5A, Roswell has played Oñate, Las Cruces, Centennial, Cleveland and Atrisco Heritage. The one thing that has motivated “Dude” is his desire to get Roswell back to the top.
“I won’t rest until we’re No. 1 again,” “Dude” said. “I want to compete and play the best. … I have been trying to figure out what we have to do to get there. We’ve changed our offense last year, and we might again. I’m proud of our kids and believe we can get there as the smallest school in 5A.”
Look for Roswell to be ranked in the top six next year.
Editor’s note: Please be careful out there. RDR Sports will not let you down, Chaves County, in sports coverage. We have stories to keep you reading. Here are some of the articles we are working on. Saturday will be a look back on Dexter girls’ basketball. On Sunday, we will have a welcome home edition for Dominic Chavez. Tuesday will be Roswell and Goddard boys’ all-district teams.
There will be a Gateway and Hagerman basketball review and preview as soon as we touch base. We will also have a story on Cal and Ty Villareal and how this COVID-19 has affected their careers. We will talk to Gilbert Alvarado and Charlie’s Angels among others. So keep it locked to RDR Sports — we will keep you updated and entertained.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.