So the Lovington football team is off to an 0-2 start.
And then there’s the 115-point elephant in the room, as in, the total amount of points given up by the Wildcats in their games against Roswell and Seminole over the past two weekends.
Concerning? Maybe. Time to panic? Hardly.
Lovington expected a challenging pre-district stretch with the teams that fill the Wildcats’ August and September schedules. Roswell is 5A and almost always a beast. Seminole is 4A – Texas 4A – which may well be looked upon as 5A size-wise in New Mexico.
And the tough start could get tougher, with the New Mexico teams that lie ahead over the next three games – 5A power Santa Teresa; 6A Hobbs, who is undefeated through Week 2; and Artesia, a state 5A finalist last year. So while the Wildcats know how tough it is to beat those powers, they will keep power-ing through, until they get to the all-important District 4/6-4A play in October.
“It’s tough when we try to set our schedule up,” Lovington head coach Anthony Gonzales said after last Friday’s 46-6 loss to Seminole at Brian Urlacher Field. “We try to find those 4A teams to be able to play (in non-district games), and we just can’t find them.”
So, the Wildcats will take challenging games from the region. “There’s a lot of good football being played around here,” Gonzales said.
Putting those tough teams on the non-district schedule is not only necessary, but Gonzales thinks valuable for Lovington as well.
“There’s nobody that wants t o win more for our Wildcats than me,” Gonzales said, “and we’re doing everything that we possibly can to make that happen. Our kids are working extremely hard every single day, buying into what we’re doing, buying into the program, buying into the plan. And at the end of the day I tell them this, ‘These games that we’re playing against these really good opponents right now, when we get into the middle of October, and we get late into November, these games right here against great programs like Seminole, like Roswell High, Santa Teresa – who’s ranked No. 5 in Class 5A right now; we get to play Hobbs in a couple of weeks, we get to go to Artesia, we get to drive up to Santa Fe. So these games, they’re going to build the character of our football team.”
Lovington had a forgettable start at Roswell on Aug. 19, with mistakes helping lead to 69 points for the Coyotes. And the Wildcats worked in between Weeks 1 and 2, and actually cured a lot of what ailed them by the Seminole game, despite what the Urlacher Field scoreboard said at game’s end on Friday.
Seminole, playing its season opener, employs the air raid offense, a frenetic-paced, no-huddle style that can frustrate and tire defenses. In an attempt to stop that offense, Lovington seemed to go for the Super Bowl XXV strategy. Heading into that game, the Giants supposedly had no chance because of the Bills’ fast-paced, high-scoring, no-huddle offense, yet thwarted it by keeping that Buffalo offense off the field with sustained, clock-killing drives of their own.
The strategy seemed to work great for Lovington for most of Friday night’s first half, as the Wildcats opened the game with a methodical drive that lasted 11 plays and moved them from their own 21 to Seminole’s 32 before the first of two Darryn Landrym interceptions ended it.
Still, Lovington managed to keep controlling the clock in the first half, piecing together a drive that began with 2:48 left in the first quarter and ended with a touchdown at the 6:20 mark of the second. That drive alone shrunk 9:08 of total time from the first and second quarters, 5:40 from the second alone.
In the second quarter overall, Lovington had the ball for two-thirds of the time.
“Eight minutes,” Gonzales said. “(The Indians) want to go fast, they want to snap it fast, that was the game plan going into it. We ran 20 plays in one series – 20 plays in that series! And so for our team to be able to do that … I’m very proud.”
There are, however, more mistakes Lovington must clean up, most notably the four interceptions against Seminole last Friday.
“We still have to work on eliminating turnovers,” Gonzales said. “At the end of the day, that’s what’s plagued us the past two weeks, turning the ball over. So there are some things that we need to do as coaches schematically, and then there are some things that we need to do better as a staff to put these guys in a position where they’re not turning the football over. I’m not putting any of this on our kids; our kids played extremely hard and tried to fight for everything that they had. It’s on me. I’m the head football coach, and it’s on me. So I’m going to get after it, grind it out, find a way to make us better as a football team. And we’re going to have a better football team on this field (against Santa Teresa).”
So despite the two decisive losses, Gonzales remains very optimistic.
“I think there are a lot of positives going on,” he said. “We just played a really good football team, we played a really good one last week. And we played and we competed our tails off, and our kids didn’t quit at all whatsoever. So there are a lot of good things that we did.”