Familiar foes meet in 8-man final

Melrose faces Coyotes; seeking 6th title since '14.


Last updated 11/9/2021 at 5:55pm

Kevin Wilson

Cade Collins ran 19 times for 263 yards in Texico's 55-33 win over Capitan. The Wolverines visit Jal Friday in the Class 2A semifinals.

MeLROSE - Of all the area teams still playing football this week, Melrose probably had to do the least amount of scouting.

That's because the foe, Tatum, is so familiar that the teams were probably ready to meet for the 8-man state championship right after last week's semifinals.

Excluding the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign, the second-seeded Buffaloes (7-1) will seek their sixth title in seven seasons on Friday night when they take on the top-seeded Coyotes (9-1) in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Tatum.

"When you have two familiar opponents, it'll be a week of trying to get to where you can execute perfectly," Buffs coach Caleb King said. "We want to get out and execute to be able to win the game."

The teams are regular combatants in 8-man District 2 play, and occasionally collide in the playoffs. In fact, Melrose won the last state championship game played, in November 2019, as a No. 2 seed with a 56-49 win over the top-seeded Coyotes.

Tatum is responsible for Melrose's only loss this season, a 38-26 decision on Oct. 8 at Tatum. The Buffs have had only one other game as close as eight points.

"We had our opportunities," King said of the setback. "We had the lead in the fourth quarter, and gave it up on about a 40-yard pass play."

Meantime, the Coyotes overcame an early-season 52-50 non-district loss to district rival Fort Sumner, beating the Foxes at home 54-34 in district play. In Friday's semis, Melrose eliminated third-seeded Fort Sumner 56-24 while Tatum breezed past No. 4 Logan 52-0.

King said Tatum has a strong senior class, including running back/linebacker Hayden Mullins, quarterback/cornerback Taylor Garner and wide receiver/cornerback Abraham Duran. The Coyotes also have good size in their lines, he said.

It'll be a tough test for the Buffs, but King said they're ready for it.

"It's the state championship game," he said. "It's what you play for."

Texico faces top seed in 2A semifinals - Fourth-seeded Texico (5-4) is trying to reach its first state final since winning the 2008 Class 2A championship when it visits top-seeded Jal (9-1) in a 7 p.m. semifinal on Friday night.

The teams met in the season opener at Jal, with the Panthers pulling out a 63-56 win. Wolverines coach Bob Gilbreath isn't sure it'll be that kind of game again.

"I think that first game, both of us were way ahead on the offensive side of things," Gilbreath said. "I think both teams have made adjustments and learned from that first meeting.

"I don't expect it to be that high-scoring, but you never know."

The Panthers, who lost in the first round of the 2019 playoffs but hadn't even been to the postseason for at least a decade prior to that, are keeping it all in the family this season, at least to some extent.

Gilbreath said Jal's top player is two-way tackle Rogello Carreon, who is headed to Boise State next year to play football. His brothers, junior linebacker Alexavier Carreon and sophomore center Jesus Carreon, and a cousin, junior running back/fullback Jacob Lujan, all play major roles for the team as well.

Jal has won eight in a row - including a forfeit over Mescalero - since losing to Class 3A No. 1 Ration 35-7 in Week 2. Other than their first two games and a 40-38 win at Eunice on Oct. 8, the Panthers have allowed just 20 points.

Jordan Alexander

Dathan Yeary goes up and over the defender to catch a touchdown pass in the Buffaloes' semifinal win over Fort Sumner.

"They've got some very talented kids," Gilbreath said.

The winner meets either third-seeded Eunice or No. 2 Tularosa, who play at Tularosa on Saturday afternoon, in next week's finale. Gilbreath said if Texico advances it would either host Eunice or travel to Tularosa.


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