Defending runnerup Cats look to fill holes

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

When practice begins Monday for the Clovis High football team, the Wildcats will have a lot of positions to fill.

Only a handful of starters return for the Cats, defending Class 5A state runnersup, on both sides of the ball. Still, assistant coach Darren Kelley says there is potential from a strong junior varsity program whose only loss came to Class 2A varsity power Santa Rosa.

“The kids had a good spring, and they worked hard all summer,” Kelley said. “We just need to put things together.”

Free safety Stefan Mills, linebacker Lane Ward and cornerback Scott McMath saw the most action on last year’s 9-4 squad, which lost to Mayfield 49-48 in double overtime for the 5A championship. McMath at running back, wide receiver Josh Bryan and lineman Lance Lukkar are the top returnees on defense.

All are seniors. CHS coach Eric Roanhaus begins his 31st year at the helm with a 289-101-5 record at CHS, including 10 state titles.

With school already starting on Wednesday, Kelley said the Cats have scheduled practices for 1 p.m. on Monday and 2 p.m. on Tuesday. He said they will do two-a-days the week of Aug. 18, with one practice after school and the other in the evening.

Kelley said about 70-80 players are expected in the sophomore through senior classes, including about 40 on the varsity.

“There’s a lot of positions open,” he said, “but we have a lot of young guys coming in to right for those positions. The kids will compete and work hard.”

The Cats have their annual scrimmage against Las Cruces High scheduled for Aug. 22 in Tularosa. The season openner is Aug. 29 against Alamogordo at Leon Williams Stadium.

All New Mexico fall sports programs can begin practice on Monday.

Meantime, Texas high schools are already a week into preseason drills. At Farwell, third-year football coach Mark Anglin is hoping the Steers can improve on last year’s 1-9 mark.

“We’re going to be real young, but we do have some good senior leadership,” Anglin said. “Our nine seniors all have good attitudes.”

Farwell has scrimmages on tap next week against Sundown and the following week against Texico and Vega. Anglin said the Steers hope to compete for one of three playoff berths in District 5-1A.

“I’m not predicting we’ll be great this year, but I think we will be competitive,” he said. “I think we’re definitely going to compete for a playoff spot.”