Las Vegas Robertson football coach Chad Roanhaus, a Clovis High grad and son of longtime Wildcats coach Eric Roanhaus, celebrates during last week’s Class 3A semifinal win over Socorro. Courtesy photo: Santa Fe New Mexican
By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
When he first accepted the job as Las Vegas Robertson’s football coach, Chad Roanhaus had a goal for the Cardinals, who had never won a high school football championship.
“We’re going to get one,” Roanhaus said in 2003.
He’s done that, and arguably become the most successful coach in Robertson’s history just four years into his career. At age 32, the former Clovis Wildcats and New Mexico Highlands quarterback has led Robertson to its first title, compiled a record of 33-15 and coached the North to a win in the 2006 Class 3A North-South All-Star game.
His Cardinals (11-1) seek a title repeat and an undefeated season against Class 3A teams today in a 2 p.m. matchup with the Portales Rams at Greyhound Stadium.
Roanhaus has gone up through the ranks, all while feeling the pressure of being the son of veteran Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus.
Clovis assistant Darren Kelley has known Chad Roanhaus as a waterboy, a high school quarterback, a college quarterback, an assistant coach, and now a head coach. When he first coached Roanhaus on the junior varsity, Kelley figured he’d follow that path.
“He grew up around the fieldhouse and was always around. He was our quarterback,” Kelley said. “He was a good leader. He was fun to coach because he understood the game and took care of his business.”
He made the same impression on former high school and college teammate Doug Cavanaugh, but the special teams coach for Robertson said he really didn’t get to know Roanhaus well until the quarterback recruited him to Highlands.
“When I was able to transfer (from junior college), I thought about going to Eastern,” Cavanaugh said. “I had a chance to talk to Chad during the summer. We were always talking about maybe playing together again.
“Those were probably the best years of my life, (because I was) getting to know Chad and because it was college. We lived in the same house (with other former Clovis teammates) and had a blast, playing ball again together.”
The two coached together as graduate assistants at Highlands after their eligibility was up. That piqued Roanhaus’ interest in coaching one of Las Vegas’ high school teams.
“My time at Highlands made me want to apply for this job,” Roanhaus said. “At Highlands, I had a chance to see both Robertson and West Las Vegas many times, and their kids always played hard.”
After a few years as an assistant with Clovis, he got the chance when Art Abreu Jr. stepped down as Cardinals coach. Roanhaus got the job and kept some of the coaches, including current defensive coordinator Leroy Gonzales.
To fill out his staff, he made a call to Cavanaugh, who was working at a restaurant in Austin.
“He gave me a call, told me I had a week to think about it when he accepted the job at Robertson,” Cavanaugh said. “I was tired of doing (restaurant work) in Texas, so I thought I’d try it out.”
The first campaign under Roanhaus was 1-9, but the Cardinals quickly turned their fortunes with an 8-4 mark in 2004. All along, Roanhaus tried to instill some of the philosophies he’d learned on the fields of southern New Mexico and west Texas.
“I think the difference is the pride that the kids take in the themselves in the south,” Roanhaus said. “They expect to win, and we tried to change that philosophy here at Robertson.”
Opponents believe he’s accomplished that.
“The No. 1 thing Robertson has going is their confidence,” Raton coach Brock Walton said. “When you see them play, they look like they believe they’re the best team in the state.”
Kelley thinks the younger Roanhaus has set a good foundation to keep the Cardinals as one of Class 3A’s elite teams for a long time.
“The big thing that’s helped him is putting some people around him that he can work with and get kids to come out and play for his program,” Kelley said. “He could be successful there as long as he wants to stay there.”