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

By Dave Wagner
Staff writer 

Virus resurgence leaves football seniors waiting


Last updated 11/17/2020 at 4:22pm

CLOVIS — As New Mexico, like most of the rest of the country, wades through the coronavirus pandemic and its recent surge in cases and hospitalizations, high school seniors looking to move on to play in college can only sit and wait.

Football coaches Cal Fullerton in Clovis and Jaime Ramirez in Portales are trying to help those with a chance to go on, but the fact the season has been delayed until the spring — if it’s played at all — has made it quite challenging.

“I think any kid in general who’s wanting to play at the next level and doesn’t have much film from their junior year, it’s going to hurt them,” said Ramirez, who led the Rams to the Class 4A state championship last season. “I think it’s hurting all kids with the opportunity to play at the next level.”

Several players from both schools have shown interest in moving on and have gotten feelers from a variety of schools. But it becomes tough without game film from their senior seasons.

“We’re at a standstill,” Clovis wide receiver-free safety C.J. Gutierrez said. “We’re just going back and forth between being able to play and not being able to play. You feel like it’s going to happen, and then (Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham) keeps pushing it back.”

Volleyball, cross country and golf were originally given the go-ahead to play a reduced schedule starting in early October, but Grisham’s administration made a decision about that time to push those sports back into an already loaded spring calendar.

Fullerton said Division II Western New Mexico recently contacted him about players he thought might be able to help the Mustangs’ program.

“I’ve been around kids and I can tell who can play college football and who can’t,” Fullerton said. “I’m sure some of these kids may not get a chance to get some of their (college) scholarship paid for and play college football.

“It hurts because New Mexico is (already) a highly underrecruited state, in my opinion.”

Gutierrez was being recruited by an NCAA Division III school in the Chicago area, but admits he’d like to play closer to home.

He also doesn’t have much film from his junior year because of an injury.

“Last year, I tore my labrum in my shoulder and I was out like six weeks,” he said. “It’s honestly made it a lot tougher. I think I’d have a better chance (if there’s a season).”

Wildcats tight end-outside linebacker Ernesto Acuna has had offers from New Mexico Military in Roswell and from Eastern New Mexico University, both looking at him on the defensive side of the ball.

In October, Acuna was profiled in a New York Times story, along with several other athletes across the country, who are concerned about their college prospects with their seasons either postponed until the spring or canceled altogether.

Acuna sustained a torn ACL in Week 6 of the 2019 campaign, but says he’s ready to go again.

“I’m feeling good now,” he said. “Last season, I didn’t get to play that much, but I would like to go (on) to bigger and better things.

“I’ll just see what my options are and make the best of it.”

Portales’ Dason Davis is a rare competitor in one of the larger classifications in the state who actually participates in four sports — football, basketball, baseball and track — and believes the lockdown on prep sports is “definitely unfair.”

If sports are a go after Christmas, as is the hope, it figures he may have to make some serious choices about how to try to handle his sports load.

“I’ve continued to work out and try to make myself better, since we can’t work out as a team,” said Davis, primarily a running back in football. “Hopefully, we do have a season and when we do, I’ll be ready.

“This year, it’s definitely disappointing because (football) is my favorite sport.”

He said its possible he could get a look in other sports.

“My main focus is football, but an offer’s an offer,” he said. “I’m just praying and hoping for the best. That’s all you can really do.”

Clovis guard Johnny Jimenez is not a fan of the sports shutdown.

“I feel like (the state is) not giving us the opportunities that other states get,” he said. “Eventually, I hope they realize what they’re doing to us, (and) give us the opportunity to play.”

Jimenez said he’s been in contact with ENMU, Western and a number of D-III schools. He said he just wants to play somewhere.

“During the pandemic, I competed in some showcases in the Dallas area with other offensive and defensive linemen,” he said. “That helped me a lot.”

Clovis wide receiver-cornerback Blake Muscato said the Cats have tried to work around the restrictions as best they can.

“We’ve been doing our guidelines our governor has let us do,” he said. “But a lot of times you have to (work) in the gym by yourself.”

Portales quarterback Baylor Diaz overcame an early-season injury in 2019 to help lead the Rams to the 4A title. He’s also a catcher for the Rams’ baseball team, and wouldn’t mind an opportunity to do both sports.

“I just keep sending film to colleges,” he said. “If I could do both (sports), it would be great. Everyone says I need to pick one, but it’s hard when you have a love for both sports.”

Ramirez, who thinks Diaz could play either quarterback or running back at the college level, is looking at out-of-state opportunities for him.

“We’re trying to find teams who are interested in him,” he said. “We’ve been looking at NAIA and junior college leagues in Kansas.”

CHS wide receiver-cornerback Braden Romero, who plays basketball and track in addition to football, is anxious to get a senior season on tape. He admits the waiting has been a bit frustrating.

“I’ve heard from some college coaches, but not much,” he said. “Coaches like to see us on film, but it’s kind of hard to go off last year’s film because I think I’ve made big improvement since then.

“It’s real frustrating, especially because I’m a senior. It feels like we’re getting that opportunity taken from us.”


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