The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Roybal named Football Coach of the Year


April 19, 2018

Courtesy photo

Dickie Roybal was inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame.

Dickie Roybal was honored, but confused.

"New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame," the former Melrose football coach thought. "There's a New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame?"

There is, and they recently honored Roybal by selecting him as one of their High School Coaches of the Year and making him part of their 2018 Hall of Fame induction ceremony that took place in Albuquerque on April 8.

"To be honest, I really didn't know what it was," Roybal said. "It's not advertised here on this side of the state that much. In fact, there's only one coach from this area that's ever been Coach of the Year and that's Eric Roanhaus."

Roanhaus, the Clovis High football coach from 1978 through 2016, was actually inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. Otherwise, eastern New Mexico hadn't gotten much of a whiff regarding the Hall of Fame's honorees.

"So, I had never really heard about it," said Roybal, who retired at the end of last season following 23 years as Buffaloes head football coach. "Once I found out what a big deal it was, that's when it became an honor. Until then I didn't really know what it was."

"They tap into the Albuquerque area more," Melrose school superintendent Jamie Widner said, "so for him to win this is a huge deal. I mean it's huge."

In more ways than one. The whole event entailed more than just the awards banquet. On the weekend's first night there was a dinner for the honorees. The next day, there was a golf tournament and another dinner. And the weekend ended with the Hall of Fame banquet, which had more than 800 attendees.

"I don't think I've ever spoken in front of over 800 people," Roybal said. "But that was — I don't know what you would say — humbling, I guess."

Roybal thanked family, friends, Widner of course, and the players who helped place him behind that podium.

"And that's the biggest thing," Roybal said. "I wouldn't have been put in that position if it wasn't for the kids here at Melrose. They're the ones that should be getting honored, not me."

Also selected as a High School Coach of the Year was Chad Adcox of Class 6A champion Manzano, which was named High School Team of the Year. LaCueva's Dick Johnson was honored as High School Tennis Coach of the Year.

Manzano's Jordan Byrd was named High School Male Athlete of the Year for his efforts in football and track. Cleveland's Amanda Mayoral was chosen High School Female Athlete of the Year for her exploits on the cross country and track teams.

University of New Mexico cross country and track coach Joe Franklin was named Collegiate Coach of the Year, and his women's cross country team was given Collegiate Team of the Year honors. UNM track star Josh Kerr was selected as Collegiate Male Athlete of the Year, with Lobos cross country standout Ednah Kurgat chosen as Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year.

The Houston Astros earned some props after beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in last year's World Series, as Astros teammates Alex Bregman and Kenny Giles - both born in Albuquerque - were each named Professional Athlete of the Year.

Awards of Distinction went to Billy and Eddie Moya. And Sporting Event of the Year was given to the 20th Annual Coleman Vision Tennis Tournament.

This year's Hall of Fame inductees were: Pam Allen, Rick Galles, Roy Gerela, Dr. Ron Maestas, Dr. Anthony Sandoval, Johnny Tapia and John Wooten.

A memorable night for all those New Mexico sports figures, including Roybal, whose 23 seasons coaching football were certainly fruitful. During that span, Melrose made 19 state playoff appearances, 14 of which ended in a state championship game. And the Buffaloes emerged from nine of those 14 state title games as state champions, including the past four seasons. They were undefeated state champs in 2017, Roybal's last.

Quite a haul indeed.

"That's huge as far as our little school goes," Widner said, "and the things he was able to get done here."

Driving west along U.S. 84, train tracks on the left, seemingly endless stretches of open land on the right, one might not think that along the way there was a high school producing such a dominant football program, such dominant athletic programs overall.

"We've been successful in a lot of areas over those years," Widner said, "and I attribute that to Coach Roybal and the atmosphere he developed."

Roybal, who will remain as Melrose principal and athletic director, goes back a bit with Widner. Roybal has held the principal's job for eight years, the same time period that Widner has been superintendent.

"You don't find that very much anymore - to have a superintendent and coach for that long together," Roybal said. "He's always been really supportive of my program."

Going farther back to the 1990s, when Roybal first took the football head-coaching reins, things weren't all rosy for the Buffs.

"I think when he started it was difficult," Widner said, "but after that first year the boys bought in. And they do that with everything, and I'm not just talking about sports. I'm talking about activities, any kind of extra-curricular activities. And I attribute that to (Roybal) and the environment he created."

Replacing Roybal as football coach will be a familiar name around Melrose athletics - Caleb King, who was an assistant coach on the Melrose boys basketball team that won a state title in Albuquerque last month, and the head coach for Melrose's girls basketball team that finished as a state runner-up a day earlier. King also coaches the Buffaloes baseball team.

And, by the way, he was Roybal's defensive coordinator the past two seasons.

"Coach King is brilliant when it comes to strategy, coaching philosophy. He is brilliant when it comes to being a coach," Widner said. "The question is, can he get the same attitude from the kids that Coach Roybal got? I think he can."

King will put his own stamp, a new stamp, on the football program. But Roybal's imprint won't soon be forgotten, now matter how fast the 23 years have flown by or how fast the next 23 will.

Roybal certainly won't forget any of it.

"I'd say the biggest thing I'm going to miss is Friday night lights," Roybal said. "I'm still associated with the kids in the hallway, we still have that relationship. But there's nothing like walking out on the field and playing under the Friday night lights."

"Our kids are really blessed to have him," Widner said. "That's the biggest thing that we have is our staff. We have a tremendous staff, a tremendous set of students and great parents. That's what makes our school so good. And he's a major part of that."


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