Thursday, December 3, 2009

Socorro will host powerful Lovington for the championship.

By John Severance

SOCORRO – It does not get any bigger than this.
And no matter what happens on Saturday, the memories will last a lifetime.
The Socorro football team is on the threshold of playing for its first state championship since 1977 when it hosts Lovington at 1 p.m. at Eddie Castaneda Field at Warrior Stadium.
Back in 1977, the Warriors shocked the New Mexico high school football world by making it to the finals and upending Academy 12-7.
On Saturday, they hope to do it again but they have an even more daunting task.
Lovington comes to town having won 15 Class AAA state titles and there are rumors that its most famous alum Chicago Bears all-pro linebacker Brian Urlacher might be in attendance. Urlacher’s attendance, though, could not be confirmed at press time. Lovington coach Jaime Quinones said he had not heard if Urlacher would be attending but Socorro coach Damien Ocampo said he heard the Bears linebacker would be in attendance.
Lovington enters the game with a 10-2 record and has not given up a point in two playoff games.
They beat Hatch Valley 49-0 in the quarterfinals and Albuquerque Academy 31-0 in the semifinals.
“They are really good,” Ocampo said.
“They have no weak points and they have more depth than anybody else in 3A. The school is twice our size and not only are we an underdog on the field but we are as a program as well. They have all the facilities. These guys practice football all year round and we don’t have anything like that.”
Quinones said the Wildcats have picked the right time to gel as a team.
“We have been playing very well,” Quinones told the Mountain Mail Tuesday night. “Since district, our offense, defense and special teams have clicked and hopefully we can do it one more week.
“We have a balanced attack and the biggest threat is that we are deep. Our quarterback Jameson has five or six quality receivers to throw to. You just can’t stop one of our receivers because all of them can get the job done.”
And what does Quinones expect from Socorro?
“Offensively, they come out in multiple sets and they make you defend the whole field,” Quinones said. “They are going to run the football. They have some big offensive linemen. Coach Ocampo does a great job. We have our work cut out for us.
“Defensively, they bring the heat and the offensive line has to pick up where the pressure is coming from to give our quarterback time to throw.”
The Wildcats started the season 2-2 and have reeled off eight straight victories. The two teams, though, do not have any similar opponents.
Socorro enters the final with a 9-3 record and on a five-game winning streak. The key for the Warriors has been defense especially the past two weeks when they got past Las Vegas-Robertson 7-3 and Raton 21-17 last week in the state semifinals.
“The defense played hard and tough and finished it,” David Chavez said after the Warriors beat Raton last week. “The second half, we came out hard. The state championship game will be a tough one but I think we’re going to do good. We will have a good week of practice and we will play hard and go all out.”
The other good news for the Warriors is that they are playing at home for the third straight week.
Lovington, meanwhile, will make the 250 mile or so trip from the Texas state line to Socorro and will have solid backing as well. Lovington’s stadium, which was financed by Urlacher, holds 6,000 and the Wildcat faithful are known to travel well.
Ocampo, meanwhile, relishes the underdog role.
“We are going to work hard and give them all they can handle.,” Ocampo said. “By no means are our kids going to lay down. The community will be behind us.
“They (Lovington) expect to come down and kick the tail out of us. And all of their fans expect to wipe the field with us. Our kids are going to go out and battle. As a coach, you know that your kids will play hard for you and that’s a great feeling as a coach.
“Our guys already have made history and I expect nothing but the best out of them. I am excited for the opportunity to play these guys.”

Photo: Socorro football players take a break from film study Monday in preparation for their state title clash against Lovington.
Nicky Romero contributed to this story.


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