Wildcats finalize first schedule with Class 4A
By Tom Mulherin
With a new district and classification in tow, the Lovington football team officially completed its schedule for next season, head coach Anthony Gonzales announced Friday afternoon.
Due to the size of the school and program, the Wildcats – as previously reported – have moved down from Class 5A to Class 4A, and will share a district with Moriarty, Ruidoso and Portales. Lovington’s schedule ends with those three programs, but starts with a familiar season-opening foe in Chaparral.
Lovington heads to Chaparral on Aug. 24, and will actually face seven other opponents it had on the schedule last year while still part of 5A.
“We’ve got a really tough schedule, but it’s going to work out good for us,” Gonzales said. “As good as those teams are (from last year), it’s not going to be completely foreign to us when we play them. … The kids want to play them, those are the opponents they’ve been playing for a long time.”
While much of the schedule is the same, the ending will be much different.
In their bounce-back season from 2016, the Wildcats had to make a push for a good seed in the state tournament last year against tough teams like Artesia, Roswell and Goddard in District 4-5A. Those three teams have given a smaller Lovington program fits for years, with the Wildcats going 1-11 since joining the district in 2014.
So, while Gonzales and his team will still play them, it won’t be at the end of the year when district comes around. Instead, district play starts at home against Moriarty Oct. 19, and is followed by an away game at Ruidoso and a home game against Portales on Nov. 2.
“Without a doubt (it’s a relief),” Gonzales said. “I felt like we competed against (District 4-5A teams) well, but what got us was numbers. They can run four brand-new receivers on the field or rotate two, three or four (defensive) backs into the game at one time, and we can’t do that just because of our numbers.
“So that’s going to be a huge relief for us when we get into district play with Ruidoso, Moriarty and Portales. We look across the field to the other sideline and they’ve got the same number of kids that we do.”
In non-district play, Roswell will come to town in Week 2. Hobbs heads to Lovington in Week 4 and Artesia does the same in Week 5. The Wildcats will head to Goddard on Oct. 5 before a bye week that precedes district play.
Gonzales says that having all of these 5A and 6A opponents wasn’t done intentionally. He tried to replace those games from last year with 4A opponents, yet not many programs within the class made efforts to coordinate games.
Whether that’s due to avoiding a state-qualifying Wildcats program or not, Gonzales is taking that as a sign of respect. He also feels it still gives his team a chance to prepare itself for top competition should it reach the Class 4A State Tournament.
“To be honest, I tried to find schools that were in our classification, but it just didn’t work out,” he said. “I guess you could call it a compliment. … Our non-district schedule is going to be pretty tough, but it’s good to play those teams early and play some really good competition because it will prepare us.”
The other games on the schedule are Capital in Week 3 (Sep. 7) and Alamogordo in Week 5 (Sep. 21).