By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Dexter McDaniel says with a declining enrollment and population base, winning at Fort Sumner just keeps getting tougher and tougher.
So far, though, the Foxes are managing just fine.
McDaniel, who has been on the football staff for 16 seasons and is entering his fourth year as head coach, hopes to lead the Foxes to something in 2007 that they’ve been unable to accomplish — a three-peat in Class 1A.
Last year, Fort Sumner completed its third back-to-back run of titles with a 14-3 victory over District 2-1A rival Clayton in the title game. It was the Foxes’ eighth title-game appearance in 11 seasons.
“Obviously, our goal is to be there again,” said McDaniel, who expects Clayton, Carrizozo and Jal to be among title contenders this season. “The big thing right now is to stay healthy.
“We’ve got good experience (coming back), but each year brings a new team.”
Fort Sumner (9-4, 3-0 district last season) is currently without senior lineman Derek Terrell and Chase Longo, who both have knee injuries which will force them to miss the start of the season.
Texico, which reached the 1A title game for five consecutive years (2001-05) and won titles in 2003 and 2004, absorbed its first losing season (5-6) in seven years last year while transitioning to Class 2A. Coach Mike Prokop said inexperience and a tough schedule were factors.
“The kids are a year older,” Prokop said. “This team is different from last year because now they all understand what’s required of them.”
Prokop is optimistic, but said the Wolverines will probably still be a little young in the offensive line.
In eight-man football, Melrose and Clovis Christian are hoping to turn things around after finishing below .500 last season.
Veteran Melrose coach Dickie Roybal said the Buffaloes have more experience and should be better. Before going to 8-man last year, the Buffs went to the finals six times in Roybal’s previous 10 years at the school and claimed championships in 1999 and 2004.
“We want the kids to work hard and enjoy themselves,” Roybal said. “If you put that together and you’re in for a successful season.”
Clovis Christian expects to have a young roster — first-year coach Jason Swann said 13 of the 16 varsity players will be in the freshman and sophomore classes.
“It’s a lot to ask of young kids, but they’ve really shown me a lot,” said Swann, not that far removed himself from his playing days at CCS. “I’m looking for this group to keep growing as football players.”
On the Texas side, Bovina and Farwell will battle again in District 4-1A. The Mustangs are coming off back-to-back trips to the playoffs, and could be the team to beat in the district this season.
“We’ve got a lot of experience, but we don’t have a lot of depth,” Bovina coach Hector Guevara said.
Second-year Farwell coach Mark Anglin said his team is ready to compete.
“To be honest, we don’t have any one standout player,” Anglin said. “But we’ve got a lot of kids who hustle and work hard.”
Muleshoe has gone to the playoffs eight times in coach David Wood’s 11 seasons, including last year, and expects to make another run in 2007.
Wood thinks his team’s toughest games in District 2-2A may be the lasts two — against Bushland and rival Friona.
“We’ll know what we’re made of by that time,” he said.