Pigskin Preview: Rattlers hope to avoid injury bug


August 21, 2019

Ron Warnick

Tucumcari head football coach Wayne Ferguson guides quarterback Jesus Ramos and several running backs through plays Friday morning. The Rattlers host Escalante during their season opener Friday.

“I think we will be a decent ballclub if we can stay healthy.”

Tucumcari head coach Wayne Ferguson’s thumbnail assessment of his team matches others in the region. Simply put, coaches in Quay County and beyond are struggling to get enough athletes out for football.

Ferguson has 31 players on his varsity roster, but he’s seen fewer than 20 show up for practices so far. Because of his lack of skilled players, he felt forced to cancel a scrimmage last week against the Clovis junior varsity because of the risk of injury. He said he’s contemplating canceling the junior varsity schedule for the same reason.

Elsewhere, Logan totals just 13 players on its varsity roster for eight-man football. The San Jon/Grady cooperative is struggling to get 10 varsity players for six-man football.

In neighboring Harding County, Roy/Mosquero on Thursday canceled its six-man season because of a lack of players.

Ferguson, who’s beginning his eighth season leading the Rattlers, said there’s no one reason for the lagging roster numbers.

“I can’t speak for the other places, but here, we’ve heard every excuse,” he said. “We’ve had kids ineligible, they don’t like (football) any more, they want to get ready for basketball season or wrestling, they have to work, they’re scared. Some freshmen have come into high school thinking they’re going to get pounded on by the upperclassmen, which isn’t true. We’ve heard many, many reasons.

“Everybody always talks about concussions, but we’ve had only one concussion last year,” Ferguson added. “It’s a combination of things.”

Ferguson, who also is Tucumcari’s athletic director, said he’s talked to prospective football players in the school hallways “once or twice” before giving up.

“We’re not going to beg anybody to play,” he said.

Tucumcari lost last year’s quarterback, Alijah Jimenez, from a 2-8 club due to ineligibility and him moving from the area. He’s been replaced with sophomore Jesus Ramos, who proved to be a potent athlete on the basketball court last season. Ferguson said he’s hopeful that athleticism translates to the gridiron, as well.

“He’s still a work in progress,” he said. “He’s definitely an upgrade in athletic ability. Jesus is one of the better athletes we have in the school. He’s just having to learn the system; it’s going to take him a while.”

The Rattlers also are blessed with an abundance of 17 to 18 linemen.

“We’re more than happy to have plenty of lineman,” he said. “It’s a good thing, and it’s kind of a rare thing for us.”

Ferguson said his team generally leans to a run-oriented offense, but he remains unsure what type of team he’ll have, including on defense, until it hosts Escalante on Friday.

“We’re still trying to feel our way,” he said. “With so many people out of practice, we haven’t even gone against each other in pads. Until you play somebody else, it’s going to be hard to tell how good we are — or how bad that we are.”


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