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New Mexico Stars practice gets a little ‘salty’

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RIO RANCHO – For the first time in the three-year history of the New Mexico Stars, they’re in a pennant race.

New Mexico Stars wide receiver James Cleveland (21) leaps for a catch against Amarillo earlier this season. The Stars host Rio Grande tonight, with first place on the line. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

New Mexico Stars wide receiver James Cleveland (21) leaps for a catch against Amarillo earlier this season. The Stars host Rio Grande tonight, with first place on the line. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Tonight in the Santa Ana Star Center, first place is at stake in the Lone Star Football League when New Mexico (4-3) plays the Rio Grande Sol (5-2). Last week, the Sol beat San Angelo 92-89 in the highest-scoring game in LSFL annals.

This is also a get-even opportunity for the Stars, who were 69-39 losers to the Sol in Hidalgo, Texas, on April 6.

Judging by Wednesday’s animated practice at the Star Center, kickoff can’t get here soon enough. Two scraps broke out during drills. Another time, a player stormed off the field in frustration.

But apparently all is well. The departing player was back before the end of practice, and the scufflers had exchanged hand clasps within moments of their flare-ups.

“Don’t mistake what you saw out there for a lack of discipline,” coach Dominic Bramante said. “They’re good guys, they’re passionate guys, and they were emotional. That was their emotions getting the best of them.

“And when you practice with the emotion that we do – and not very many teams practice like that where they’re going after each other – these things happen. These guys are salty.”

One of the “salty” players is 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive tackle Levi Horn, who was on the Chicago Bears’ active roster in 2011. Earlier this month, he had a brief stay with the LA Kiss of the upper-echelon Arena Football League.

“Usually all that stuff’s over with in training camp,” Horn, 27, said of the hot tempers. “We have a couple of new guys in here, and they’re trying to put their footprint down on the team and show their worth.”

In his case, he was talking about defender Adrian Cole.

“He’s coming in and doing his thing and trying to get noticed,” Horn said. “I’m a vet. All that extracurricular stuff, I don’t do. So, I told him how I practice and he didn’t like it.”

Said Bramante: “Levi was telling him, ‘Hey, I understand your exuberance, but when the play is past us, shut it down, be a pro.’ ”

Despite the fracases, the post-practice huddle broke with laughter all around.

“Coach went around the country, got the best people he could find, and he brought us all here for a reason,” Horn said of the roster. “He’s kind of the shepherd and we’re his sheep. I guess he’s a shepherd with wolves, really, because he put a flock of wolves together. And that’s how we play.”

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