By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS
Final game score aside, this year’s overall Tucumcari Rattler football season (11-2) was a huge success, said Head Coach Dub Smith.
“Our goal was to get to state and we did it,” he said of competing against Hatch in the bid for the state championship title last Saturday. “Our goal was met. The program we have established is a winning one. A lot of teams would have loved to be where we were – and it took all of us to get there.”
Smith said he was referring to everyone who supported the team and, of course, the team members themselves.
“We’re going to miss the seniors,” he said. “They’ve had a great four years. We won state in 2002, made it to the semi-finals in 2003 and made it to state again this year.”
Senior Eric Holt, who was injured for part of the season, still said it was his best season overall and yes, the state championship loss made him cry.
“I was kind of disappointed that we lost,” he said. “We needed to go out there and actually play, not just go out and expect to win.”
Holt said his highlight of the season was being a senior and leaving the team. But he won’t leave first without a word of advice, a sentiment he nabbed from Smith and a Winston Churchill mantra: “Never, never, never give up.”
Senior Josh Benavidez said the biggest thing he learned from his four years with the Rattlers was how to overcome adversity.
“We were missing Eric (Holt) for five games,” he said. “After that everyone started stepping in. (Eric’s) 30 touchdowns in a season ain’t nothing little. The highlight is our offensive line.”
His advice for next year’s team was a simple good luck, and also a tip on what – or rather, who – to look out for.
“D.J. Martinez is going to be a really good running back,” Benavidez said. “That’s something to look forward to.”
Senior Nathan McDonald said he is leaving the team with a message to keep their heads up, and perhaps learn from past mistakes.
“We could have studied the film better and practiced a lot harder,” he said. “Teamwork is hard, but when we work together it gets done.”
Senior Justin Benavidez agreed the team could have prepared for the games a bit better, but he doesn’t leave bitter. “Just making it to state was our goal,” he said, adding he wishes the remaining Rattlers luck. “Just keep their focus and do their best,” he said.
Although the underclassmen members said they will miss the seniors, they are not without some ideas of their own on how to play Rattler football.
“I need to get meaner,” said sophomore Joseph Quintana, “just get more pumped up for the game.”
Sophomore Philip Preciado concurred, at least with the latter statement. “I plan to get better next year, work harder, work out a lot and run more.”
Although these chaps gave individual goals, neither lost sight of the importance of teamwork. Smith even added the importance of not only the members, but everyone who was there for the team.
Smith said he extends a hearty thanks to the assistant coaches Wayne Ferguson, John Span, Gary Hittson, Milton Brown, Eddie Encinias, Bryan Dunlap, volunteer trainer Matt Posinski, manager Krystal Molinas, even the sideline crew who pull out the markers to measure yardage. “I call them Smitty and his chain gang,” Smith said. “He’s in his 46th or 47th year.
“And I can’t say enough about the fan support,” Smith added, “the support of the community. We really, really appreciate it.”
Tucumcari Rattler football selection
District 2AA All-District
First team, offense:
Quarterback – Josh Benavidez
Tight end – Drew White
Tackle – Josh Villegas
Guard – Brian Lopez
Split end – Adrian Jones, Justin Benavidez
Running back – Eric Holt
Kicker – Anas Badshah
Second team, offense:
Running back – Nathan McDonald, D.J. Martinez
Center – Ken Mercer
Guard – Daniel Godfrey
Tackle – Joseph Quintana
Honorable mention, offense:
Running back – Marc Salas
Split end – Aric Trujillo
First team, defense:
Linebacker – Brian Lopez
Down linemen – Drew White, Josh Villegas
Secondary – Adrian Jones, Josh Benavidez
Second team, defense:
Linebacker – Eric Holt
End/linebacker – Nathan McDonald
End – Kyle Sims
Secondary – D.J. Martinez
Punter – Nathan McDonald
Honorable mention, defense:
Secondary – Aric Trujillo, Justin Benavidez
Down linemen/linebacker – Marc Salas, Joseph Quintana
Linebacker – Matt Smith