Buffaloes hit early by knee injuries

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Dickie Roybal hopes his Melrose football team can build on last week’s season-opening 26-0 shutout of Tatum.

It’ll be tough, though, considering the Buffaloes’ injury situation — they’ve already lost three starters for the season to ACL injuries — and this week’s opponent is two-time defending state champion Roswell Gateway Christian.

The teams collide at 7 p.m. today in Melrose.

“They’re every bit of what they were last year,” Roybal said of the Warriors, who bring a 22-game winning streak in dating to a 6-man loss at Melrose in September 2005. “They’re fast and big.”

Gateway graduated do-everything back Jevvon Hunter, but Roybal said the Warriors have plenty of talent left over. Gateway opened its season last Friday with a 70-6 rout of Clovis Christian.

Sophomore lineman Colby Sneller was lost to the Buffs before the season, while senior center Wesley Hollaway went down in practice last week and junior fullback-middle linebacker Call Barnard was injured in the game.

“As a coach, it’s frustrating,” said Roybal, who plans to add up some eighth-graders to the roster for depth. “It’s just bad luck.”

The Buffs believe they can rely on their defense, though. Any time you post a shutout in 8-man, it’s an accomplishment.

“It really was (a surprise),” senior running back-defensive end Adam Hairgrove said of the shutout. “We played them in (a preseason) scrimmage and they scored on us, so I was surprised to shut them out.”

What’s more of a concern for Roybal is to get the offense on track.

“Our defense is pretty good,” he said. “Hopefully, the offense is going to come around.

“We saw some things on film that we think we can do against them. The biggest thing is whether we can move the ball on them. We’re just going to have to execute well.”

Hairgrove hopes Melrose, which lost at Gateway in the 2005 6-man championship game, can put bookend losses around the Warriors’ winning streak.

“We were the last ones to beat them,” he said. “We’re hoping to knock them off their pedestal.”