Stars back in hunt for the No. 2 seed

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Coach says they let Venom off the hook

RIO RANCHO – Although last week’s 57-54 home loss to first-place Amarillo was a deep gash in the playoff sails of the New Mexico Stars, coach Chris Williams says there’s no shortage of motivation for the final three regular-season games in the Lone Star Football League.

“That was the No. 1 team,” Williams said of the Venom after Wednesday night’s practice at the Santa Ana Star Center. “I went home and told my wife, ‘I feel like Dennis Green. We had the No. 1 team beat. We knew (who) they were and we let them off the hook.’

“Next time we just better not let them off that hook.”

Today Lone Star standings
Abilene at New Mexico, 7:05 p.m., Santa Ana Star Center. Promotion: Military Appreciation Night*Amarillo 8-2

*Laredo 5-4

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*Abilene 5-5

*New Mexico 4-5

San Angelo 1-8

* Clinched playoff berth (12-game regular season). In the first round of playoffs on July 6, the No. 1 seed plays host to No. 4; No. 2 hosts No. 3.

That opportunity will come soon enough, next week in Amarillo. But first, the Stars have a home date tonight with the Abilene Bombers.

Thanks to the Bombers’ 44-42 victory over the second-place Laredo Rattlesnakes on Monday, the Stars’ chase for second place and a first-round home playoff game in the pro indoor league doesn’t seem to be as impossible a task as it did after Saturday’s loss.

If New Mexico beats Abilene, wins in Amarillo and then foils last-place San Angelo in the Star Center on July 1, it would fulfill its obligation to remain alive for the No. 2 seed. And if Laredo, which is on a two-game losing streak, falls to San Angelo tonight and to Amarillo two weeks later, the Stars get second.

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If Laredo loses tonight, Amarillo will have clinched the regular-season crown and might not be playing at a fever pitch with all hands on deck next week vs. New Mexico. But the Venom also might not play at 100 percent efficiency against the Rattlesnakes, either.

“We’re going to be a team to contend with before this is over,” Williams said.

ROUGH SCHEDULE: For the second time this year, Abilene visits on the back end of a three-game road swing after traveling to Laredo. No other league team has even one such three-game stretch. Making matters worse for the Bombers is they are playing on only four days’ rest. No other team this year has had to play back-to-back road games with such a short workweek. Then there’s also the adjustment to the mile-high altitude.

Said Williams: “They’re going to come in here hungry, trust me. They just came off what I thought was a really big upset against Laredo. I don’t expect any of those (outside) factors to have anything to do with how they play.”

In the teams’ previous meeting at the Star Center on May 11, New Mexico intercepted seven passes – including four by DB DeMarcus James – in a 63-41 victory. On April 13 in Texas, the Bombers won 55-45.

ARGGHH! In last week’s loss, the Stars’ Zeke Arevalo kicked an apparent 28-yard field goal with 22.2 seconds remaining that would have tied the game at 57. A moment earlier, however, Amarillo rushed to call timeout, not to ice the kicker but because it was in an illegal formation. The officials ruled the timeout request came before the play.

But Stars deep snapper Jeff Younker begs to differ.

“I slo-mo’d that 25 times while watching film, and I clearly snapped the ball beforehand,” Younker said. “I snapped it before they waved their hands.”

On the ensuing try, the kick was smothered by Amarillo’s DonTa Bright, a New Mexico Highlands alum who burst through the middle.

“That was the most-blocked ball I’ve ever seen,” Younker said. “I think he tried to avoid getting his (groin) hit.”

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