Communities committed to prep football

PNT Photo: Argen Duncan Portales Rams booster club secretary Chelle Strawn talks with her son, Justin, after the football scrimmage Friday. Justin Strawn, a junior, plays right guard. Chelle Strawn said football is an important part of her family’s life.

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

Large cheering crowds, sponsorship posters, t-shirts in school colors … enthusiasm for football is easy to see in Portales and Clovis.

This time of year, Friday night is high school football night for many across the region.

People have different ideas about why the support exists, but a number of them see it as a good thing.

“It brings the community together with a common goal,” said Portales High School booster club secretary Chelle Strawn. “We are defending state champions. It brought the community together last year.”

Football is important to her family, Strawn said. Her father and uncle as well as some of her cousins have coached football, and she said she wouldn’t miss one of her son’s games.

“I like the values that it has taught my son as far as commitment, discipline, healthy eating and exercise,” she said, and added that she also likes the competition.

Gary Wiley, president of the Clovis High School booster club, sees the importance of football in identity.

“It gives the community an identity in the state,” he said.

This is especially true for Clovis because the high school has been a powerhouse in 5A football for 35 years, Wiley continued.

“And it always brings people together on Friday night, friends and family, to go support their team,” he said.

Wiley said the games are a good source of entertainment and a good place for fundraisers.

“I think it gives the community something to identify with, and everybody wants to identify with a winner,” he said.

For benefit to the students, Wiley said athletes in all sports tend to have better grades, and Clovis High football players are held to high standards of behavior.

Ram tackle-defensive end Garth Dotson said football teaches players class and character.

“The coaches give us good morals for life, and they’re always behind us and supporting us in everything we do besides football,” he said.

Strawn’s eighth-grade daughter, Erica, said all sports are important in Portales because they give youth something to do besides vandalism and violent behavior.

“I like football,” the Portales Junior High School cheerleader said. “I like to go to the games. I like to watch my brother hit people.”

Clovis High School football coach Eric Roanhaus said the community support encourages students to become part of the football program.

Strawn said she thinks the strong support for football comes from Portales being a small community where everybody has watched the football players grow up and a bond exists among teammates and with the community.

Wiley attributes the support for Clovis football to a winning record. People want to see what’s going on Friday nights, so they come to the game, he said.

From Dotson’s viewpoint, last year’s state championship and the players giving their all in the games bring the Portales team community support.

“We couldn’t do it without all our players out there and without the community backing us up,” he said.

Roanhaus said the importance of football in Clovis existed before he came as assistant coach 37 years ago.

“I think it might be because we’re close to Texas and Texas football is some of the best in the United States,” he said.

As for game attendance, he doesn’t expect that to drop off any time soon.

“I think that was a lot of tradition before I came, and it’ll be here after I’m gone,” Roanhaus said.