Melrose’s Barnard reprises QB role

New Mexico Highlands University: Courtesy photo Former Melrose High standout Clint Barnard, pressed into quarterback duty at New Mexico Highlands this season, is shown carrying the ball for a gain during the Cowboys’ Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game against Chadron State on Oct. 15. Barnard, who helped Melrose to two 8-man state titles, began the season at linebacker.

Eric Butler

Even though he was from a small high school, given that he was big and athletic, it wasn’t a major shock to see Melrose’s Clint Barnard see action at linebacker at New Mexico Highlands during his redshirt freshman season this fall with the Cowboys.

But when a slew of injuries at the quarterback position led to Barnard parking himself behind center, those old 8-man football days with the Buffaloes were quickly summoned.

There was some ribbing, according to Highlands coach Eric Young, such as: “Now understand, Clint, that there’s three more players on each side of the ball, so don’t panic.”

“‘Remember you have tackles out there,’ stuff like that,” said Barnard of the days leading up to a game at Chadron State in mid-October, in which he got his first start as signal-caller for the Cowboys.

Barnard quarterbacked Melrose to back-to-back undefeated campaigns in 2008 and 2009. He then followed in the footsteps of older brother Call to Highlands, where he redshirted last year.

Coming into this season, Clint Barnard and his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame were slated to get a chance at linebacker. And, at one point, he was second in the team in sacks.

But on the other side of the ball, quarterbacks were falling by the wayside.

First it was junior Emmanuel Lewis, who broke his hand early in the season and was given a medical redshirt. Then junior Nick Ponce, who started for two games before he was sidelined with a concussion.

Redshirt freshman Harold Mobley then got a shot, but tore an ACL against Adams State.

Meanwhile, Highlands, which had started the year with four straight wins, saw its season go south. The Cowboys (4-6) haven’t won since, and it’s been up to players such as Clint Barnard to pick up the pieces.

Young and the coaching staff would just as soon Barnard go back to linebacker full time, but the exigencies of the moment are dictating that the Melrose frosh go where he’s needed.

Against Fort Lewis this Saturday, in the final game of the season, that’ll be at quarterback again.

“When our staff arrived we made the move for him to go to linebacker.” Young said. “That was the plan. We love him at linebacker. He’s very talented and has a great future.

“He’s a smart guy and a very mature guy considering he’s just in his third semester at college.”.

Back in Melrose, his former coach and much of the rest of town has taken note that Clint Barnard is now a starting quarterback in college.

“I think it’s great, it’s good for small-school football,” Buffaloes coach Dickie Roybal said. “It doesn’t surprise me, with his work ethic. He and his brother both (were) always in the weight room working to get better.”