They’re going later, and the competition’s greater.
The third season begins for the Curry County Cats in semipro football, with a 6 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Leon Williams Stadium. The Cats, previously part of the New Mexico Premier League, moved to the Professional American Football League.
The league, with the exception of the Cats, is entirely Texas teams, with the Hub City Bison of Lubbock as the first challenge.
Other cities represented in the league include Midland, Odessa, Dallas, Wichita Falls and Palestine.
“This September, we traveled seven hours to Aztec,” Cats coach Paul Lopez said, “and we traveled six hours to El Paso. It didn’t affect us at all.”
Tickets are $5 for general admission, $1 for Air Force personnel and free for children 12 and younger.
Lopez said the move to night games is an attempt to make the games more accessible to Clovis residents, following a 2012 season which saw some afternoon games fail to draw 100 fans.
Lopez, a member of the 1994 Clovis High championship team, understands the tradition that 7 p.m. Friday means for Clovis games and he hopes a 6 p.m. Saturday tradition can start with the Cats.
“We wanted a Saturday 6 p.m. because we thought more people would come out,” Lopez said. “Saturday, a lot of people have things with their kids going on. A lot of the Texas teams do it Saturday night.”
The roster is largely unchanged from the previous season, with John Props at quarterback and numerous other former Wildcats on offense and defense.
New Cats include 2004 Clovis High graduate Phillip Williams, who played last year for the New Mexico Titans in the NMPL and is the No. 7 rusher in Clovis High history, and 2012 graduates Kenny Betts and Chris Lewis.
They’ll need all the help they can get, with Lopez admitting the challenge steps up significantly in the PAFL.
“This league was an invite only,” Lopez said. “It wasn’t just whoever wanted to pay their $1,000 fee. Switching to this league, we’re going to raise the bar and make it bigger for the town. We don’t want it to be a mediocre program. I felt like we needed to do this.”