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WT's games 'nullified' for ineligible player

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Before Friday, Eastern New Mexico University’s football team thought its No. 6 seed was set in the upcoming Lone Star Conference playoffs.

Things changed a bit, though, when tonight’s opponent, West Texas A&M, had five LSC games “nullified” by the conference for the use of an ineligible player in those games.

The teams meet at 6 p.m. in the annual “Wagon Wheel” game at Greyhound Stadium.

WT (5-3, 4-2 LSC), whose record won’t change, dropped three of its LSC wins for seeding purposes. That means the Buffaloes, who had been in line for a No. 2 through 5 seed in the playoff, were dropped to the No. 7 slot, but can move up a notch or two with a win tonight.

According to the Amarillo Globe News, former backup kicker Jose Arzate Jr. said he had completed homework assignments for senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson, one of the top pass-catchers in the LSC, who was held out of last week’s game against Texas A&M-Kingsville as a precaution.

Coach Mike Nesbitt said Friday morning, before the latest developments, that he was unable to comment on the situation in general, or on Johnson’s status for tonight’s contest.

Assistant coach Joel Hinton was reportedly fired by the school this week as the investigation continued.

Nesbitt said the Buffs were squarely focused on tonight’s game.

“The big key for us is handling their (triple-option) offense,” Nesbitt said. “You don’t see an opponent like Eastern every week. (Junior quarterback Jeremy) Buurma’s playing great, and their whole backfield is playing well.

“Defensively, they’re playing really sound. Their players get to where they’re supposed to be.”

Meantime, ENMU (4-4, 2-4 LSC) had been locked in at the No. 6 slot and slated to host No. 7 McMurry next week, but at this point stand fifth. The Hounds can’t move into the upper-tier bracket of the two-week playoff starting next Saturday, but will still host someone in the semifinals.

ENMU athletic director Jeff Geiser said Friday that he didn’t know a lot of information on the WT situation.

“From our perspective, it doesn’t matter if we’re a six seed or a five seed,” he said. “We’ll just show up with our cleats on and play whoever we’re supposed to play.”

ENMU senior safety Conner Brinton said essentially the same thing.

“I don’t think anyone gets any more fired up than for WT,” he said. “Last year was the first time we’ve won the Wagon Wheel in (nine) years.

“I just know it’ll be a hard-fought game. I don’t feel like they or us need any more motivation.”

ENMU won last year’s game 39-38 at Canyon, Texas, scoring the final 22 points capped by a 2-point conversion in the final minute. That helped the Hounds earn a share of the LSC championship.

“You can throw records out the door,” ENMU coach Josh Lynn said. “Our focus is with WT, and it doesn’t matter who’s winning or whose losing.”

Nesbitt said teams are preparing more for the Hounds this season.

“Last year, I don’t think people were looking seriously at them,” he said. “(But) there was a difference sense of passion and pride in their program.”

ENMU is disappointed to not be in the upper half of the LSC tournament, Lynn acknowledged.

“A lot of that is on us,” he said. “All these (LSC) teams can win on any given night. It’s really a matter of who doesn’t make mistakes.”


West Texas A&M at ENMU

• When: 6 p.m. today at Greyhound Stadium in the “Wagon Wheel” game

• Records: West Texas A&M 5-3 (4-2 Lone Star Conference), ENMU 4-4 (2-4).

• Radio: KSEL-FM 105.9.

• TV: KAMR, Ch. 4, Amarillo.

• Coaches: West Texas A&M, Mike Nesbitt, 2nd season, 16-6; ENMU, Josh Lynn, 3rd season, 14-14.

• Last week: The Buffaloes cruised past Texas A&M-Kingsville 48-21 at Canyon, Texas. ENMU lost at Angelo State 41-20.

• Last meeting: 2013, the Hounds overcame a 38-17, second-half deficit to stun the Buffs 39-38 at Canyon, Texas.

• WT players to watch: Preston Rabb, 6-7, 220, Jr., QB; Geremy Alridge-Mitchell, 5-8, 203, Jr., RB; Patric Youngman, 6-1, 231, So., MLB; Carter James, 6-2, 230, Fr., LB; Anthony Hayes, 6-0, 180, Jr., CB; Torian Oakley, 5-9, 179, Sr, CB.

• Notes: WT leads the all-time series 15-12, including 14-12 in Wagon Wheel games, and 7-5 at Greyhound Stadium. … Last year’s win snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series for the Greyhounds. It was their first win in the series since 2004. … ENMU won its first two games, then lost two, won two and has now lost its last two. … Nesbitt was named interim coach in August 2013 after WT fired Don Carthel. The “interim” tag was dropped last December. … For Nesbitt, a Belen native, this is his first game in New Mexico since becoming the Buffs’ head coach. He spent four years as a punter at the University of New Mexico (1991-94), averaging 45 yards a kick as a junior, and had NFL tryouts with the New Orleans Saints and MInnesota Vikings. … ENMU’s E’lon Spight leads the LSC in rushing yardage (1,101 yards) while Alridge-Mitchell, who has six consecutive 100-yard games, is second at 886. … The Hounds lead the LSC in rushing offense (311.1 ypg), rushing defense (86.0) and total defense (373.9). Senior LB Seth Bailey of Texico is tied for the league lead in interceptions with four.

— Compiled by Dave Wagner