Texico backup quarterback Zane Anderson stiff-arms a Cloudcroft defender in last week’s semifinal contest. CNJ staff photo by Rick White.
By Dave Wagner
Having already soundly beaten Loving this year, Texico senior lineman Bryce Bailey thinks the Wolverines can build off that as they prepare for Saturday’s Class 1A state championship game against the Falcons in Loving.
Losers in the last two 1A finales to Fort Sumner, the Wolverines (11-0) will be looking to cap an unbeaten — and nearly unscored-upon — campaign in the 2 p.m. matchup.
“You don’t get as many butterflies (for the rematch),” he said. “We know we’ve done everything we can to win one. Now it’s just the time to go for it.”
While Texico has given up only two touchdowns — 13 points — in rolling to an 11-0 record, it is averaging 44 points a game.
Included in that success is a 33-0 win at home over Loving (8-3) in October in the teams’ District 2-1A opener.
Bailey is careful not to put too much stock in the lopsided win. After all, the Wolverines were 11-0 going into last year’s finale before Fort Sumner claimed a 15-6 victory.
“They’ll be doing things differently, and we’ll be doing things differently,” Bailey said. “They’re very quick; all their skill position players are good. If they play together, they’re just as tough as anybody.”
The Falcons were hampered last time by a second-quarter injury to senior quarterback-safety Nathan Vasquez, coach Jaime Ramirez said, forcing them to shuffle personnel.
“After that, our offense and defense (were) completely off,” he said. “We couldn’t get our offense started and gave them a short field.”
Loving’s defense has also been solid, holding seven opponents to 10 points or less. Most impressive was a 7-0 first-round playoff win at Fort Sumner.
“If we do what I believe we can do, if our defense can do a good job, it will set up our offense in a better position to score,” Ramirez said. “We have to force them to pass by stopping the run.”
Texico is missing leading rusher Johnny Serrano, who is ineligible due to academics. He also missed last week’s 56-0 semifinal drubbing of Cloudcroft.
Still, the Falcons have their work cut out.
“They have to stop the running game first,” Bailey said. “Our running backs and receivers have been doing such a great job, I don’t see how they’re going to stop all of them.”
Senior Mark Peabody has taken over as the lead back while Serrano’s older brother, Jesse, is now in Peabody’s old position in the backfield.
Texico offensive coordinator John Irwin oversaw Thursday’s practice with head coach Mike Prokop in Amarillo after his son, Ross, was hospitalized with an infection.
Irwin doesn’t think the Wolverines, who plan to spend tonight in Carlsbad, will have any trouble focusing on the task.
“We went over the video (of the first game) and looked at all the mistakes we made,” Irwin said. “It could be a completely different type of game next time.
“I think we just need to play our game, and we’ll be all right.”
Texico (11-0) at Loving (8-3)
What: New Mexico Class 1A championship
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Last week: In the semifinal round, Texico routed Cloudcroft 56-0 at home while Loving turned back Capitan 22-8 in a game played in Artesia.
Last meeting: October, the Wolverines rolled to a 33-0 win over the Falcons in the District 2-1A opener for both teams at Texico.
Loving players to watch: Nathan Vasquez, Jr., QB-LB; Jonathan Fuentes, Sr., TB.
Keys to the game: The Falcons have played well defensively, but they’ll have to figure out a way to penetrate a Wolverines defense which has allowed just 13 points and posted nine shutouts this season.
Quotable: “We moved the ball real well on the ground last time (against Loving). That’ll have a lot to do this time with how we do.” — Texico assistant coach John Irwin