Clovis Christian High’s Andrew Hertel tries break the tackle of the New Mexico School for the Deaf’s Curtis Kelley in the third quarter of Thursday’s game at Jim Hill Field. (CNJ photo by Mile Linn)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
They stood patiently through the player introductions of both teams. Then it was a pregame prayer conducted by the public address announcer.
After that, a saxophonist performed a drawn-out national anthem while standing at midfield.
But all that was just a long, silent waiting period for the New Mexico School for the Deaf players as the state’s football season began with a six-man game in Clovis.
While they couldn’t hear any of the pregame festivities and ritual, the contest itself was a medley of beautiful sights for the Roadrunners.
NMSD defeated Clovis Christian 54-30 Thursday as the Roadrunners got off to quick starts in both halves and secured victory behind a punishing effort from senior back Robert Salas.
Salas rumbled for 197 yards and also completed six of his 11 passes for an additional 123 yards for the Santa Fe school.
“It wasn’t really too bad,” said Salas, through an interpreter, of the moments before the game began. “I was just waiting for the game to start. I’m very happy we won the first one of the year.”
Salas’ third of five touchdowns, which gave NMSD a 22-0 lead with just more than a minute left in the opening period, was the most entertaining.
After A.J. Williams tossed a short pass to Dustin Moulder at the Clovis Christian 21-yard line, Moulder pitched the ball to Salas — who was following the play and went the rest of the way for the score.
“I felt we kind of came in overconfident coming into the game,” Clovis Christian coach Carlos Velasquez said. “We just kind of overlooked that, just because they couldn’t hear didn’t mean that they weren’t athletes.
“They came out and really showed us they were athletes,” he added. “I take my hat off to them. They came in really well-prepared and did a good job.”
Clovis Christian (0-1) trimmed the lead to 22-14 after a pair of long touchdown passes from Ryan Boatman to Cory Hastings. But Boatman, while trying to convert a fourth-down situation late in the first half, reinjured his left knee and did not play the rest of the game.
Velasquez said that Boatman was kept out of the second half as a precaution and would likely play next week.
As was the case in the first half, the School for the Deaf struck immediately after intermission Salas scored on runs of 34 and 11 yards to give the Roadrunners a 36-14 lead less than seven minutes into the second half.
But, once again, Clovis Christian fought back.
An 8-yard pass from Hastings to Robert Montanez was followed by a 46-yard strike from backup quarterback Sean Sena to Hastings.
That cut the NMSD lead to 36-30, but the Roadrunners finally broke the host team on a 29-yard pass from Salas to Curtis Kelley was followed by a 30-yard interception return by Salas for another touchdown.