By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Two-a-day practices begin Monday for New Mexico football teams, although many coaches have decided to combine them into essentially one long workout.
Clovis High, the defending Class 5A state runnerup, kicks off practice at 8 a.m. Wildcats defensive coordinator Darren Kelley said the sessions during the first week will last until around 1 p.m., with the team taking an hour-long break in the middle.
“We started doing it that way a couple of years ago, and it’s worked out pretty well,” Kelley said.
The Cats went 9-4 last season, winning eight in a row after a 1-3 start before losing to La Cueva 40-0 in the state title contest.
En route to the finals, CHS avenged a season-opening shellacking at the hands of Mayfield but bouncing the Trojans out of the first round of the playoffs. Clovis opens its season against Mayfield on Aug. 26 at Las Cruces.
While the team was fairly hard-hit by graduation, Kelley noted there are four starters back on both sides of the ball.
“I think the kids are excited, and they’re expecting to do well,” he said. “I think this’ll be a fun group to work with.”
Texico — The two-time defending Class 1A state champion Wolverines were hard-hit by graduation, but sixth-year coach Mike Prokop said his team will be ready to defend its title.
Texico will work out from 7-9 a.m. and 10 a.m.-noon every day this week. The Wolverines host Dexter in an Aug. 19 scrimmage before opening at home the next week against Smyer, Texas.
“Our goal this year is to get to the state championship,” said Prokop, whose team has a 24-game winning streak and is 43-5 over the past four years, with two state runnerup finishes to go with the two titles. “We have to do things correctly and be able to survive the non-district schedule.”
Prokop said Texico returns five two-way starters out of roughly 35 prospects, but the Wolverines will be hard-pressed to replace four-year regulars Braden Vaughan, Logan Brown, Garret Mayfield and Bryan Vannatta.
“I just hope (the replacements) are ready to step in and have their own road to glory,” Prokop said. “They know what’s expected, and the tradition that’s been set.”
Melrose — The Buffaloes were state champs in six-man last year and have a number of key players back as seniors, including running back Carlos Ruiz, who piled up 56 touchdowns and rushed for more than 2,800 yards in an 11-1 season.
Still, veteran coach Dickie Roybal doesn’t see his team as the favorite, instead pegging Mountainair as the team to beat in six-man.
“Being the state champs, everybody will be gunning for us,” he said. “Of course, it seems every year everybody’s gunning for Melrose.”
Roybal, who expects only about 13 prospects for Monday’s first practices, said the Buffs can repeat if everything falls into place.
“As far as experience, we’ve got that,” he said. “If everybody stays healthy, we could be in the thick of things.”
Clovis Christian — Greg Darden returns to lead the Eagles after a one-year hiatus. CCS expects to have around 15 candidates for the team, including five returning regulars.
Practices are set for 9 a.m.-noon and 6-8 p.m. this week at Potter Park.
Darden said the Eagles are building and trying to move closer to the .500 mark after going 2-8 in 2004.
“We’re going to have a real young team this year,” he said. “We just want to try to break even. If we can keep everybody healthy, I think we’ll be OK.”