Defense carries Wolverines to 1A title

Texico senior safety Mark Peabody jars the ball loose from Springer’s John Ramirez during their 2003 Class 1A state quarterfinal game in Texico. CNJ file photo.

By Dave Wagner

After finishing second in the Class 1A state football playoffs four times in the previous six years, Texico finally made it all the way to the top in 2003 behind a dominating defense.

In the championship game at district rival Loving, the Wolverines capped off an unbeaten season by scoring two touchdowns in the final four minutes to break a tie and nail down a 21-6 victory over the Falcons.

Texico’s title, its first since 1996, has been chosen the top sports event of 2003 by the Clovis News Journal sports department.

“It was a great year,” said fourth-year Texico coach Mike Prokop. “When you go 12-0 and win it without two starters, it was a great cap to the four years that our senior class put in.
“We wanted the blue (trophy). We knew Loving would give us a good game, but it just showed the tenacity of our kids.”

The Wolverines lost seniors Toby Thornton and Johnny Serrano, both two-way regulars, on their way to the championship. Still, they were the odds-on favorites to run the table and held their first 11 opponents to a total of 13 points.

But Loving, which lost at Texico 33-0 in district play, hung tough for most of the title game.

“Last year, we thought we had a good chance (to win the title), but I don’t think we really believed we could do it,” Prokop said. “This year we knew we could do it.”

The rest of the Top 10 area sports stories in 2003:

• The Eastern New Mexico University men’s basketball team, picked for fifth place in preseason, won the program’s first conference or division championship since joining the Lone Star Conference in 1984.

ENMU went 20-8 overall, including 11-1 in the LSC South Division. The Greyhounds won three division games in overtime, including a title-clinching 99-95 verdict at Texas A&M-Kingsville, and took two other three-point decisions in regulation.

“We just tried to take it one game at a time, and (the wins) just accumulated,” ENMU men’s coach Shawn Scanlan said. “I think there’s a reason why teams win close games, and that certainly was a knack that this team had. They competed awfully hard, and I think they developed an edge (in late-game situations).”

In addition to having the South’s coach of the year in Scanlan, ENMU also had the player of the year (Cedric Palmer) and the defensive player of the year (Garland Coleman). The Hounds won 16 of their final 18 games after a 4-6 start.

• The Clovis High football team earned the District 4-5A championship, but the Wildcats were upset by Rio Grande 21-18 in a first-round Class 5A playoff game at Leon Williams Stadium. It ended a string of 21 straight first-round playoff wins for Eric Roanhaus, who has been the Wildcats’ head coach since 1978.

“We didn’t do a good job of blocking and tackling,” Clovis assistant coach Darren Kelley summed up. “They didn’t do anything we didn’t practice against (or) expect. They just beat us.”

• The CHS baseball team, absent from postseason play for 40 years before making the 5A regional round in 2002, earned its second consecutive berth in May. But after hanging with powerful La Cueva most of the way, Billy Hogan’s two-run homer touched off a five-run sixth that gave the Bears an 8-3 victory.

La Cueva went on to capture the state championship the following week, finishing off a perfect season.

• The Clovis boys cross country team fared slightly better than expected, posting a school-best second-place finish in the Class 5A state cross country meet at Gallup. The Cats had three of the event’s top eight runners in seniors Matt Appelman (fourth), Brian Romero (fifth) and Tyrell Northcutt (eighth), finishing with 85 points to 70 for champion Gallup.

• CHS senior Derond Jackson broke school records in the long jump and triple jump last spring.

Jackson shattered Ray Harris’ 21-year-old school standard of 23-feet-5 3/4-inches in the long jump, going 24-1 in the Wildcat Relays in April. In that same meet, he also broke the record in triple jump by going 47-1/2.

Then in early May, he posted one of the nation’s top prep marks for 2003 when he went an even 49 feet in the Carlsbad Qualifier.

• The CHS boys basketball team was denied a trip to the state tournament when it lost 58-57 at eventual 5A champion La Cueva in the regional round on a fluke basket as time expired.

La Cueva reserve Mark Mendoza gathered in a pass which had bounced off his head and laid in the winning points at the buzzer, foiling Clovis’ comeback from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit. It was only Mendoza’s second basket of the game; the Bears’ starters accounted for the team’s other 54 points.

• CHS shortstop Jason Seefeld signed a national letter of intent in November to play his college baseball at the University of Arizona.

As a junior last spring, Seefeld belted a school-record eight homers while driving in 27 runs and finishing with a batting average of .458. He was also the Cats’ top relief pitcher.

• Former CHS defensive coordinator and Marshall Junior High principal Dale Fullerton was named the school’s athletic director over the summer to replace Randy Adrian, who resigned after 12 years in the position to enter private business.

• Led by senior B.J. Shepherd and junior Jonathan Chisom, the Bovina Mustangs posted 17 wins and qualified for the Class 1A boys basketball playoffs for the first time since 1992.

Other top stories in 2002

• The $3 million Texico Sports Arena, with 1,138 chairback seats, opened on Jan. 14 with the hometown Wolverines and Lady Wolverines posting narrow wins over District 6-2A rival Clayton.

• The Farwell Steers, making their first appearance in the Class 1A football playoffs since 1999, defeated Wheeler 25-6 before bowing out in the second round in a 20-0 loss to Sunray.

• A season after leading Eastern New Mexico to the NCAA Division II Softball World Series, coach Kathleen Rodriguez resigned less than a month before the season started to take a job at Division I Texas-El Paso. Ron Landschoot coached the Zias to a 24-29 record after being hired on an interim basis.

• Pete Hurst, a volunteer assistant coach for the Clovis High football program for seven years, died of a heart attack in August at age 70, just days before the start of practice.

• Former Clovis High standout Hank Baskett had a breakout year as a receiver for the University of New Mexico, catching 17 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. In the Lobos’ 55-14 loss to Oregon State in Wednesday’s Las Vegas Bowl, Baskett caught a 27-yard touchdown pass and also completed a 46-yard pass to Dwight Counter to set up the other score.

• Clovis High defensive back Joey Garcia signed a national letter of intent to play football at Texas Tech. Garcia was a three-year starter for the Cats and helped them to a 13-0 record and a Class 5A state title as a junior.

• The Fort Sumner Foxes, winning all four relays and nine of the 12 track events altogether, captured their 13th Class 1A state boys track title with a 67-point margin over runnerup Desert Academy. It was Fort Sumner’s first team title since 2000, although the Foxes were runnersup each of the past two seasons.

• The Muleshoe Mules finished 4-6 and missed the Class 3A playoffs for the first time in seven years.

• The Muleshoe Lady Mules started the season ranked fourth in Class 3A in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches preseason poll.