RIO RANCHO – The New Mexico Stars enter their regular-season finale at home tonight against the Rio Grande Valley Sol with a great deal of uncertainly surrounding their postseason hopes in the Lone Star Football League.
If the Stars (6-5) win at the Santa Ana Star Center and rival Amarillo (5-5) loses to San Angelo tonight, they’ll get the third and final playoff berth. If New Mexico loses and the Venom wins, the Stars will hand in their gear.
However, if they both lose or both win, the Stars will be left in limbo until June 28 when the Venom closes the league season in Odessa against West Texas.
“Then, we’ll wait. We’ll wait,” Stars coach Dominic Bramante said philosophically of the latter scenario.
Bramante’s team has won five of its past seven games to burst into playoff contention. Included was a stirring 54-47 victory three weeks ago at the Star Center against San Angelo, in which New Mexico outscored the Bandits 21-0 in the final 6 minutes.
But then, after a bye, came last week’s anxiety-filled game in Odessa, when the Stars escaped with a 27-26 victory against West Texas. The Wildcatters were stopped on fourth down at the New Mexico 1-yard line with 0.9 seconds left.
“We won because of the defense,” Bramante said. “We’re proud of our defensive performance, but not proud that we’re known as a defensive team. When you’re known as a defensive team in arena football, chances are you’re not doing too well.
“The season was on the line, and they knew they had to pick up the challenge. On their last play, (the Wildcatters) threw to a window and (defensive back) Jayson Serda made a great tackle.”
Serda is a rookie who played at Manzano High and Eastern New Mexico.
The play of QB Andrew McGlory, however, made Bramante cringe. The first-year passer was 13-for-38 with two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.
“It was about as frustrating as frustrating gets,” Bramante said. “At halftime we had only seven points. That was downright embarrassing. What was worse is that we were winning (7-6).”
Conversely, a healthy Rio Grande Valley squad enters the game without any concerns, having clinched the league’s top seed last week. That gets the Sol a bye in the first round of the playoffs and a home date for the third annual LSFL championship game three weekends from now.
But Sol coach CoCo Blalock said his team won’t sleepwalk through tonight’s game.
“We’re never going to cheat anybody,” he said.
Blalock also said he thinks the Stars will be his foe in that championship game, scheduled for three weekends from now in Hidalgo, Texas.
“No disrespect to San Angelo, because they’ve got a pretty good team, but New Mexico has given us more of a problem,” he said.
“In my mind, coach Bramante should be the league’s coach of the year for everything that’s happened there. He’s been through hell. They are flying under the radar.”
Blalock was referring in large part to the Stars’ previous ownership group bailing a week before the season, and the team’s assumed No. 1 quarterback, ex-Lobo Donovan Porterie, refusing to play after agreeing to a deal in the offseason. That’s not to mention traveling to road destinations and not being afforded the luxury of lodging the night before.