Hounds get final tuneup

CNJ file photo Senior Michael Benton is expected to be Eastern New Mexico University’s starting quarterback for a third consecutive season when the Greyhounds open at Bacone (Okla.) next Saturday.

CNJ staff

The Eastern New Mexico University football team will have its final dress rehearsal today with a 9:30 a.m. intrasquad scrimmage at Blackwater Draw.

The Greyhounds, who open the season Aug. 25 against NAIA member Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla., are having their third intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason. Coach Mark Ribaudo said the team hopes to play four 12-minute quarters in a game-like atmosphere, and will also spend some time working on special teams.

“We’re really making strides in specials because we’re committed to it,” Ribaudo said. “We really devote a lot of time to it.

“We want to win specials. We need to win that phase every game.”

The Hounds, coming off a 3-7 campaign in 2006, have made steady progress in preseason, Ribaudo said. They’ve also been able to remain relatively healthy, he said, except for junior starting free safety Mark Patterson, who has been lost for the season to a knee injury.

Ribaudo said the coaches are looking to fine-tune some aspects of the team’s game prior to next week’s opener.

“Our pass rush and our pass coverage need to get better,” he said. “On offense, we need to fine-tune our passing game.”

He said the Hounds believe they have a strong freshman class. While only a couple of first-year players may break into the starting lineup, Ribaudo said he expects anywhere from 12-15 of the first-year players to contribute.

Among the most pleasant surprises are guard T.J. Cleavinger of Garland, Texas; running backs Michael Henderson of Lubbock and Ronnie Feaster of Houston; tight end-tackle Jarred Moyers of Magnolia, Texas, and outside linebacker Dwayne Davis of Pasadena, Texas.

“If we can get two or three more classes like this …” he said. “I’m super-pleased with our freshmen.”

Bacone, which converted from a junior college to a four-year school a few years ago, has a relatively new football program. The Warriors, who compete in the Central States Football League, went 1-9 last season under first-year coach Joseph Thrasher.