By Zac Alfers
Special to RDR Sports
Athletics at all stages have been struck extremely hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced communities to ban together and continue to push for the return of sports. At Roswell High School, the boys’ basketball team is one of many Coyote athletics programs battling the challenges caused by the coronavirus.
Leading the squad out of the dark and back onto the court is head coach Moses “Dude” Burrola, who enters his fourth season at the helm of the RHS boys’ basketball program. Burrola boasts an abundance of experience and cherishes the opportunity to pass along his knowledge to his team.
In his last two years of high school, Burrola played under head coach Sean Schooley at the New Mexico Military Institute before moving on to the junior college level where he played another two seasons for the Broncos.
He later transferred to Eastern New Mexico University and upon graduation, received his first coaching stint at Mesa Middle School where he helped both the basketball and football teams. Burrola eventually moved on to team up with Hall of Fame coach Tommy Sanchez at Dexter High School where he spent the next three seasons.
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With deep roots in the community, Burrola returned to Roswell and landed a position at Mountain View Middle School where he coached for the basketball and football teams for three years. With a strong dedication to his craft and a willingness to learn, Burrola decided to take his talents to the high school level where he got the chance to work under another Hall of Fame coach.
Under the guidance of head coach Britt Cooper, Burrola thrived as an assistant coach for the Roswell High boys’ basketball program, as the pair formed a tight-knit relationship over the course of the next 15 years. After winning his fourth state title in 2017, Cooper decided to hand over the reins to the hungry and eager Burrola.
“Before I took over as head coach, I wanted to make sure I had a good basis and learned from everybody the do’s and don’ts,” said Burrola. “Being the head coach at Roswell High is a great honor. There have been some great coaches before me and to be able to take over and continue that success, it’s a great feeling. To know I have the trust of the community to do the right thing is reassuring and everybody knows we are going to be competitive every time we step on that court.”
Even with all of his experience, nothing could have prepared Burrola for what he and his team are facing now amidst the pandemic. Burrola accredits a lot of the team’s recent success to their offseason workout programs, which have been all but derailed due to the safety guidelines that are currently in place.
In a typical year, the team will go to four separate basketball camps where the kids learn to play with each other and develop the type of chemistry necessary to win a championship. With the program’s rich tradition, many alumni return each year to participate in the Roswell High Alumni basketball game, which Burrola considers some of the most intense competitions they face all year.
Neither of those events took place this offseason and at the moment, the team is not allowed to work out with each other. All meetings are being held over Zoom where the coaching staff checks on their team and passes down individual workouts for the players to complete on their own. The expectations from the coaches are that the players will have a ball in their hands and will be working on their game until they can reconvene as a team.
The next step toward normalcy for the Coyotes will be the transition to Stage II of the state’s school re-entry plan, which will allow kids to attend school in-person. Once that door opens, the team will be allowed to practice an hour and a half a day in groups no bigger than five players and one coach.
For many of these players, the past two months have been the longest they have gone without serious athletic competition and are chomping at the bit to return to the hardwood. Despite the intense strain this has caused them, the RHS boys’ basketball team will not let anything deter them, as they prepare for the upcoming season they are hopeful will soon come.