The Melrose Buffaloes went into last year’s 8-man playoffs a heavy favorite for the championship, and they delivered with three lopsided wins.
This year, they appear to be in just about the same position — unbeaten, top-seeded, and a heavy favorite to repeat their crown.
Melrose (10-0) opens with a 7 p.m. quarterfinal game against Gateway Christian, a team they crushed 72-0 on Sept. 18.
“We beat them pretty good,” veteran Melrose coach Dickie Roybal said. “But they didn’t have their quarterback. He makes them go; he’s a pretty good athlete.”
Seventy-two points worth?
Melrose has faced six of the other seven playoff qualifiers, winning each game by at least 44 points and scoring more than 60 against all of them except Tatum (44-0), the No. 2 seed and defending runnerup.
Getting his team motivated has been a challenge, Roybal admits, but not as much as it could have been.
“Regardless of who they’ve played this year,” he said of his squad, “they’ve been ready to play. We’ve had great leadership.”
The Warriors (5-5) have rebounded from a 1-4 start with four wins in their last five games, losing only to Tatum 62-26 in a District 3 matchup on Oct. 23.
Roybal said Gateway runs a spread offense and will probably throw the ball on most plays.
“They’ve got some good-sized receivers,” he said. “If our defensive backs don’t do a good job, it’ll be a long night.”
Of course, the Warriors figure to have their work cut out and then some trying to slow a Melrose offense which has averaged just over 65 points a game. Meantime, most of the 94 points the Buffs have allowed came in two games — Animas (66-22) and Clovis Christian (76-36).
If Melrose wins, it will face the winner between No. 4 Reserve (7-2) and No. 5 Mountainair (5-3) in the semifinals. Reserve is the only playoff team the Buffs haven’t played.
The Buffs would have to travel to Mountainair, while a coin flip would decide home field against Reserve.
TEXAS PREP GAMES
Bovina (7-2, 3-1) at White Deer (4-5, 3-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. (CDT) today in a District 3-1A game. Both teams have clinched playoff berths and the game should settle second place in the district behind Nazareth (5-4, 4-0).
Last week: Bovina got past Vega 21-7; White Deer downed Boys Ranch 28-7.
Last meeting: 2008, the Bucks won at home over Bovina 45-31.
What to expect: Bovina coach Hector Guevara said White Deer relies on quickness. “What they try to do is get you out of alignment (on defense),” he said. “They run a lot of the same plays out of different formations.”
Of note: After missing out on last year’s playoffs, Bovina has now qualified for postseason play for the fourth time in five years. … The Mustangs face a tough test in the fist round of the Class 1A Division I playoffs, facing either Wellington or Canadian — both top-5 teams — next Thursday at West Texas A&M’s Kimbrough Stadium in Canyon.
Quotable: “Any team wants to finish on a high note and qualify for the playoffs. We just have to come out and execute, and not turn the ball over.” — Perkins.
Other area games:
* Anton (0-9, 0-4 District 5-1A) at Farwell (4-5, 2-2): Anton has forfeited its final few games of the season due to lack of numbers, thus assuring the Steers of a playoff berth next week.
* Muleshoe (9-0, 4-0 District 2-2A) at Friona (7-2, 4-0): The district title will be on the line, although both teams are safely in the playoffs. Muleshoe, the defending Class 2A Division I state champion, is on a 24-game winning streak.