Cats set to make semi-pro debut

Manuel Robles is getting used to the idea of playing football again at Leon Williams Stadium.

His Curry County Cat teammates and coaches are optimistic Clovis will quickly get used to semi-pro football.

“The community’s been awesome,” Cats coach Paul Lopez said heading into Saturday’s 2 p.m. season opener. “We’ve got a lot of people behind us. I think once the first season gets off, we’re going to get a lot more support.”

The team debuts against the New Mexico Crush, defending champions of the New Mexico Premier League. Tickets are $5, and no season tickets are available for the eight-game home schedule (four home, four road) because the team is still trying to pick up games.

Crush players include Portales High grad and former New Mexico State Aggie Raul Anaya and former Eastern New Mexico University quarterback Bobby Rodriguez.

The Crush, based in Albuquerque, draw a significant part of their roster from the University of New Mexico, but Lopez isn’t sure that means the Cats are facing a Division-I college team.

“Their roster has anywhere from 15-20 guys who are former UNM players,” Lopez said. “Some of them were maybe walk-ons.”

Lopez said there’s not much in the way of game film or scouting against the Crush, but Player-manager Mike Thomas played for the Crush last season.

As far as the Cats go, there is an infusion of speed between Robles and former Wildcats Jacob Jones and Moses Bibbs.

About 20 percent of the roster played high school football for Clovis, Lopez said, and there’s a mix of former semi-pro players and guys hoping for another chance to play.

“There are a few that haven’t had much field experience,” Lopez said. “I think with my offense, it’s really simple. Once it starts clicking, I hope we can put some points on the board.”

Robles — who had a 132-yard, six-touchdown effort in the 2007 Class 5A title game the last time he played at Leon Williams Stadium — is looking forward to being back with a new team.

“It will be fun to get together with the guys,” Robles said. “We’ve got good players, and as long as we can get some chemistry, we’ll be all right.”