Locals study Oklahoma football

William Thompson

Tucumcari Middle School football coaches, Eddie Encinias and Brian Dunlap, took 21 middle school football payers to a football camp in Goodwell, Okla. last month.

The seventh and eighth graders learned fundamentals from highly regarded coaches and players from Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Coach Dunlap said the university’s head coach once served as an assistant at Division I powerhouse Nebraska. “Coach Ryan Held participated in the camp,” said Dunlap. “Coach Held was an assistant at Nebraska under Tom Osborne. There were only 23 kids at the camp, so all of our kids got personal instruction from Coach Held and his staff.” One of the university’s players, quarterback Ty Sellers, scored the most points of any Division II player last year and is in the running to win Division II’s equivalent to the Heisman trophy next season. Coach Encinias said Sellers taught quarterbacking fundamentals to Tucumcari’s potential starting quarterback.
“Sellers showed how important footwork is in playing quarterback,” said Encinias. “He also showed how to properly drop back and get set up to pass the ball.”
Encinias said that during the three-day camp his middle school players concentrated on skills necessary in the defensive secondary. “Next season our team will be a little short on linemen so a lot of our players learned the skills they will need to play the defensive end, deep back positions and linebacker positions.” Coach Dunlap said his players worked on drills eight hours a day during the camp.
“The coaches knew how to push the kids and when to let up,” said Dunlap. “These kids learned what it takes to play college ball.”

The middle school football team was undefeated last season and Dunlap said the camp was a big reason why they were undefeated. “Last year we took fewer players to the camp, but I think the camp taught those players a lot and they contributed to our success,” said Dunlap. This year we took 21 players, so I think we have a chance to do well again this season.” Dunlap said it wasn’t all hard work during the camp. “We took the kids out for pizza and to a movie,” said Dunlap. “The Baptist Student Union on campus opened their doors to us and the university even provided a cookout and opened up their swimming pool for us.” Dunlap said middle school players are learning a lot more about football these days than when he was a young player. “Middle school players are learning more high school-level techniques nowadays,” said Dunlap. “Kids are different nowadays as well. Coaches have to know when they can get in a kid’s face and which players they have to use kid gloves with.”

Dunlap said he prefers that his players go to the smaller Oklahoma camp than to a large camp like the one at the University of New Mexico. “Most of these kids are not going to play Division I college football,” said Dunlap. “They need exposure to Division II coaches. Plus, the smaller camp offers greater one on one coaching.” Dunlap and Encinias both wanted to give thanks to the Tucumcari Elks Lodge for pitching in around $1,500 for the players’ trip to Oklahoma.