Wolverines looking for brass ring this time

By Dave Wagner

TEXICO — The Texico Wolverines are sick of being bridesmaids.
After losing to Fort Sumner for the past two years in the Class 1A state championship game, fourth-year Wolverines coach Mike Prokop hopes this is the year his team is able to break through.
With nine starters back on offense and defense, Texico certainly has experience on its side.
“Each year is a different story; you just line them up and see what you’ve got,” said Prokop, whose squad begins morning two-a-days on Monday. “We’ve just kind of got to plug people in. We’ve got a good nucleus coming back.”
Monday is the first official day of fall practice in New Mexico.
Texico was a considerable underdog in the finals two years ago and got shut out at home. But the Wolverines brought an 11-0 record into last year’s title clash at Fort Sumner, only to lose to the Foxes 15-6.
“The difference is we have a lot of seniors (12) this year,” Prokop said, adding that the 35-man roster also includes 11 juniors.
Texico and Fort Sumner are slated to scrimmage on Aug. 22 in Texico.
Among the graduation losses was standout running back Adrian Loera, but the Wolverines return the rest of their backfield and their offensive line.
Eighth-year Melrose coach Dickie Roybal anticipates “16 or 17” prospects for Monday’s start of workouts. The Buffaloes were 4-5 last year and 1-2 in District 3.
Tatum is no longer in the Buffs’ district, but Melrose will play the Coyotes twice — Sept. 12 at Tatum and Oct. 3 at Melrose. Roybal thinks Tatum will be one of the top six-man teams in the state.
“I’m real optimistic about this year’s squad,” Roybal said. “We had a bunch of freshmen who saw a lot of time last year, and we’ve matured a lot. We had good speed last year, but we’ve got better speed this year.”
Quarterback Brock Graham and running back Carlos Ruiz were two of the team’s top freshmen in 2002, and are expected to carry a big load again this fall. End-linebacker Harvey Park is the lone returning senior with significant game experience.
Melrose opens on Aug. 29 at home against Hondo.
Roybal said he thinks the players have had a good offseason and are ready for two-a-days.
“In the eight years I’ve been here, this is probably the hardest the kids have worked,” he said.
Fellow District 3 member Clovis Christian, which opens its season Sept. 5 at Tatum, was hit hard by graduation.
CCS outscored the Coyotes in a 70-64 shootout last year in district play, but Eagles coach Greg Darden knows his team has its hands full.
“I think Tatum’s going to be the team — I don’t think they lost anybody,” said Darden, who expects about 14 prospects on Monday.
Despite their heavy losses, Darden said he’s excited about the Eagles’ prospects. CCS will build around senior defensive end Joseph Hostler, senior middle linebacker Ivan Godwin, senior center-defensive lineman Gage Bonestroo and junior quarterback Cory Hastings, who split time between center and running back last season.
“We’ve got a lot of holes to fill, but I think we’ve got some quality athletes,” Darden said. “We’ll be young, but I think we’ll be able to compete.”
Two-time defending state champion Fort Sumner also starts practice Monday.