By the time the bus rolled back into Lovington, in the middle of the night — or early morning hours, if you prefer — on Saturday, the city’s high school football team was already writing a new script for itself.
That team, the Lovington Wildcats, the defending state champions in Class 4A, have won exactly one game this season.
And that didn’t occur until the final day of September, 55-8 at Ivan Head Stadium against Santa Fe High on Friday night.
A good number of teams might perhaps mail in the rest of a regular season at 1-6. Lovington? Quite the opposite. The Wildcats feel they are poised to find another gear or two.
“I feel like our team is primed and ready to go,” an energized head coach, Anthony Gonzales, said Saturday.
Admittedly, this has been an unusual title defense for the Wildcats.
Faced with a harsh schedule that has included the likes of Hobbs, Roswell and Artesia, Lovington lost its first six, all by double digits.
But, in a sign that the state’s coaches recognize the difficulty of this slate, the winless Wildcats were still ranked No. 6 in the most recent Class 4A coaches poll.
Now Lovington has a win, a bye week, and expectations that it can (and will) remind the state that it hasn’t gone anywhere.
“I think there’s a lot of people who looked at our record and thought, ‘This is not a very good football team,’ ” Gonzales said. “But when you dive into it, this time right now compared to a year ago, we are actually scoring more points now than we did a year ago.”
Indeed, offense is not the issue; the Wildcats are averaging more than 28 points a game. It’s just that the teams they’ve played are bigger and more potent offensively.
That has created some mismatches and a few lopsided defeats.
And it has also, both simultaneously and perhaps unexpectedly, created a belief that Lovington can emerge as a team to watch in November.
“We’re just as explosive a football team as we were a year ago,” Gonzales said. “Our kids have battled every single week, and we feel like we’ve had a chance (every week).”
Lovington is at Bernalillo on Oct. 14 coming out of its bye week. Then it’s a home game against Albuquerque Academy, and the season finale at rival Portales. The Wildcats aren’t there yet; they’ll likely have to win at least one game in district to make sure they get to the playoffs.
“The good thing about it is, we’ve created some depth because of playing some bigger teams, and we’ve had some injuries,” Gonzales said. “That was a concern of mine when we put together this schedule. … (But) the light is at the end of the tunnel. It’s easier for our kids to see that.”
And the Wildcats’ roster, Gonzales said, remains fully engaged emotionally, even being five games under .500.
“Our kids understand what’s in front of us,” he said. “They’re focusing on protecting the tradition we’ve established in Lovington.”
HIGH 5S: La Cueva senior quarterback Aidan Armenta threw for 555 yards in La Cueva’s 63-21 victory over Eldorado on Friday night, and that yardage total vaults the recent University of New Mexico commit into the top 10 on the all-time single-game list. He is fifth.
Of particular note is that Armenta is ranked second on the records list (from the New Mexico Activities Association’s website, nmact.org) among metro-area QBs. Rio Rancho’s Easton Bruere threw for 567 yards in a 2014 game — against Eldorado.
The top 3 single-game performances on the list all belong to the same player: Gavin Hardison of Hobbs, in the 2017 season. Hardison is currently UTEP’s starting QB.
THRILLERS ABOUND: Week 7 lined up as the best slate of games so far this season, and they largely didn’t disappoint.
There were four 1-point games this weekend — Mayfield over Deming, Hope over New Mexico Military Institute in overtime, Los Alamos over Bernalillo and Valley over Portales. Plus any number of other tight games, including Hobbs-Las Cruces, Alamogordo-Carlsbad and Valencia-Gadsden.
Oddly enough, one of the top matchups of Week 7 was nearly a three-touchdown gap as No. 2 Roswell beat No. 1 Piedra Vista in a Class 5A showdown. The Coyotes’ 32-14 victory should vault them into the top slot in the next poll.
THIS AND THAT: New 8-Man program Legacy Academy on Albuquerque’s West Side, coached by former Lobo Bryan Clampitt, earned the first victory in program history on Friday night, 48-6 over Pine Hill. … Ruidoso coach Kief Johnson recently attained his 100th career victory with the Warriors, against rival Tularosa. … Clovis’ win on Friday night over Albuquerque High was the first for the Wildcats under the program’s new head coach, Andrew McCraw, who coached Belen last year. … Former Cleveland High star running back Dorian Lewis earlier this week received a scholarship offer from the University of New Mexico; he’s been playing at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.