Tucumcari High School’s head football coach Dub Smith must prepare his team for the toughest game so far this season. The Rattlers are studying their opponent, New Mexico Military Institute, amidst all the hoopla of homecoming week.
“We are going to try to focus on the ballgame rather than the distractions of homecoming,” said Smith. “NMMI is 3-1 with a 14-8 loss to Santa Rosa. They have everybody back from last season and they beat us last year.” If Tucumcari loses to NMMI this year, it will not be for lack of preparation.
“I’m studying films of NMMI from 4:30 a.m to 7:30 a.m daily,” said Smith. “All our team will talk about this week is NMMI. The staff will show the kids the same game film of NMMI that the coaches have watched.”
Starting center and defensive lineman, senior Justin Garcia, said his team’s 4-0 record is not a cause for overconfidence. “We know that we can’t be big-headed against NMMI,” said Garcia. “They are going to be our toughest game so far.” Garcia said last year’s loss to NMMI does not concern him. “The fact that we lost to them last year just makes us more intense to beat them this year.”
Coach Smith said his team’s defense is its main strength.
“We are playing really good defense,” said Smith, “and our special teams are doing well. Our main weakness is our turnovers. We need to eliminate turnovers. We do that by explaining to our backs that before they make contact they have to squeeze the football.”
Despite the turnovers, the Rattler backfield is solid, and as Coach Smith said earlier in the season, each running back can score anytime they touch the ball. Sophomore Ken Mercer, a starting offensive tackle and defensive tackle, said the line will have to overcome the absence of two starting linemen out for the game. “It’s going to be a little difficult, but our backups can do the job,” said Mercer. “We’ve got to keep working hard in practice and keep our minds on the game.”
Garcia said he has fundamental advice he gives the first-time starting linemen. “I tell them,’you just have to hit the guy in front of you,’” said Garcia.