By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — After not playing Oklahoma Panhandle State for 23 years, the Eastern New Mexico University football team resumed its series with the Aggies in 2006.
Suffice it to say, the last two meetings have been one-sided in the Greyhounds’ favor — wins by a combined score of 115-14.
The teams collide again in today’s season finale at Goodwell, Okla., both squads looking to put a positive finish to their seasons.
“It’s the last game for our (12) seniors,” ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo said. “It’s our last game, and we want to build some momentum going into the offseason and into recruiting.”
With three consecutive wins in midseason, the Aggies (3-6) snapped a losing streak of at least 23 games dating to 2005. The first was a 34-26 victory over Central States Football League foe Southern Nazarene, a team that beat ENMU 16-9 in the season opener.
ENMU (1-9) comes in with an eight-game losing streak. Its lone triumph came at the expense of Southwestern Oklahoma, a team which thumped the Aggies 42-7 last week.
“Anybody can beat anybody in football,” said Hounds junior linebacker Devin Sweet, who’s notched three sacks in the past two games. “It all boils down to who comes ready to play.
“We want to end (the season) with a good taste in our mouths. It’s been a rough year, but we want to end things the right way.”
Ribaudo said the Aggies are “a lot better” than in recent campaigns, noting that they’ll try to spread the field on offense at times.
He said the Hounds, coming off a 59-16 Lone Star Conference South Division loss at Midwestern State, have done a pretty good job of staying motivated through a tough season.
“It’s hard for kids to always stay up, even when you’re winning,” Ribaudo said. “We just have to go out there and execute our offense, and we have to play a lot better on defense than we did (last week).”
Sweet, a 2006 Clovis High grad, is one of the Hounds who has been enjoying some success in recent weeks. He moved from safety to linebacker this season, and said he’s getting more comfortable at his new position.
“It’s been going good,” the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Sweet said. “We’ve been blitzing a lot more the last couple of weeks.
“We’re still learning the offense and defense. About halfway through the season, I think we started to figure some things out.”
ENMU at Oklahoma Panhandle State
When: 3 p.m. (MST) today at Goodwell, Okla.
Records: ENMU 1-9, Oklahoma Panhandle State 3-6.
Radio: KSEL-FM 105.9.
On the Net: www.enmusports.com
Coaches: ENMU, Mark Ribaudo, 4th year; Oklahoma Panhandle State, Mike Wyatt, 2nd year.
Last week: ENMU lost to Midwestern State 59-16; OPSU fell to Southwestern Oklahoma 42-7.
Last meeting: 2007, ENMU shut out the Aggies 52-0 at Goodwell.
OPSU players to watch: Johnathan Williams, 5-7, 175, Sr., WR; Vinny Gay, 6-0, 225, Jr. QB; Darryl Brister, 5-9, 195, Jr., TB; Will Turnbo, 6-4, 287, So., DT; Matt Warner, 5-11, 225, Sr., ILB; J.C. Ramirez, 6-0, 220, Jr., ILB.
Notes: ENMU leads the all-time series 17-8-2, and has won nine in a row against the Aggies. OPSU’s last victory over the Greyhounds was a 7-3 decision at Goodwell in 1973. … The teams did not meet from 1984 through 2005. … After going 0-10 each of the past two seasons, the Aggies won three in a row in midseason. It was the program’s first winning streak (two or more games) since 2004.
Quotable: “The guys have put a lot of work into it. We want to do everything we can to send these guys off with a victory.” — ENMU junior outside linebacker Devin Sweet, on the 12 seniors playing their final game for the Hounds this week.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner