By Dave Wagner
TEXICO — After two years as the hunter, the Texico Wolverines may become the hunted in Class 1A football this season.
Fourth-year coach Mike Prokop has nine starters back on both sides of the ball, losing only running back-defensive back Adrian Loera and receiver-defensive end Landon Johnson from a squad which ran off 11 consecutive wins before losing in the state finals to rival Fort Sumner for the second year in a row.
Anything less than a title in 2003, the Wolverines concede, would probably be a little disappointing.
“We’re going to be ready,” senior 280-pound two-way tackle Bryce Bailey said. “We’re a pretty close group. We’ll have fun on the way (to a game), but we’re also able to take care of business when we need to.”
Texico, which scrimmages Fort Sumner at home on Friday, plays six of its nine games on the road this fall, including the first five — Bovina, Dexter, Clayton, Cuba and Tucumcari.
Cuba, which replaces Escalante on the schedule, has been a Class 2A playoff team each of the past two years.
“We’ll have to bring our ‘A’ game,” said Prokop, a former Clovis High assistant. “We want to get through (the pre-district games) without any injuries and be ready for our district opener against Loving.”
Playing so many road games could be a roadblock to a team which has such high hopes, but Bailey said the Wolverines’ experience should prove helpful.
“We’re really strong,” he said. “We’ve got our whole defense back except for two people, and we’ve got our whole offensive line back.
“We just have to take it one step at a time, one game at a time, and help each other out.”
Prokop said he doesn’t get much sleep these days, wondering if everything will fall into place. He said early workouts have revolved around trying to take care of the little things.
“We’re pushing the basics this year so that if we do get to that (state) level, it’s a matter of everything is already in place,” he said. “This has been one of the easiest two-a-days because of the knowledge and experience that we have coming back.”
While Loera, a 1,500-yard rusher last season, has graduated, Texico returns junior quarterback Braden Vaughan and the rest of its backfield, including senior Mark Peabody and junior Johnny Serrano.
Prokop and Bailey said the Wolverines can’t afford to rest on their laurels with most teams laying in wait for them and hoping to spring an upset.
“We can’t go by what we did last year,” Bailey said. “We’re making our own statement. Last year’s team was great, but this year’s team won’t be the same.”