When the majority of New Mexico’s six-man football teams switched to eight-man back in 2006, it took a couple of years for Melrose to become fully acclimated.
Now it often seems as if the Buffaloes are the only squad that added two extra players on the field.
Melrose (12-0) has romped its way through the 2009 schedule, much as it did a year ago, and is poised to earn a second straight state championship. The Buffaloes, who’s average margin of victory is 59.1 points, travel to Tatum (10-1) on Friday night and try to finish off a two-year undefeated run.
Senior quarterback/lineback Clint Barnard also starred on last year’s team.
“As seniors, we’d love it if we were 26-and-oh over two years,” Barnard said.
“It doesn’t matter what we do in all those games; it matters what we do in this one,” said fellow senior Sammy Lawrence, who plays at tight end and linebacker for the Buffaloes.
Judging by past results, they ought to do just fine. Melrose’s closest games were 44-point wins on two occasions, including a 44-0 win over Tatum in the third week of the season.
“I’m sure their spirits are high and their kids are ready to play,” Melrose coach Dickie Roybal said of Tatum, which just celebrated a state championship in volleyball last weekend.
“We have to travel there and it’s going to be a close game — I don’t care what anybody says,” Roybal said. “They’ve improved and put a lot of offense in; it’s taken us two days just to use it in our practices.”
But if the year-long pattern of blowouts over outmanned opponents holds true, Roybal added, it will be because of the Melrose players’ work ethic.
“If I asked these guys to run from here to Portales and back, because I said it would help us win a state championship, these are the kinds of kids who would do it,” Roybal said.
Team cohesion is also a big factor in the Buffs’ success.
Four players — Hayden Huber, Seaver Tate, Hayden Moore and Lance Widner — share time at running back. Although Roybal said he monitors the play calling, he actually lets the backs decide who will be in the backfield.
That’s a luxury rarely experience by any coach and one that Roybal began to allow last season.
The Melrose coach did admit, however, that talent also has something to do with the dominance by his team over the last two seasons.
“Clint is probably, by far, the best eight-man player in the state — and would probably be the best 11-man player in Class 1A,” Roybal said. “We’ve also got Sammy Lawrence, who can play with anybody; that kid’s just a beast.”
Barnard said that he and his teammates sometimes have allowed themselves to wonder what would happen if they were competing in 11-man football games.
“Yeah, we do ask that actually. I think we’d do well. We could compete with all the 1A schools and probably some in 2A,” Barnard said.
If all goes according to previous form, the Buffaloes might even have time on Friday, during a state championship game no less, to ponder that question once again.