By Kevin Wilson
CLOVIS — James Mendoza figured if hundreds of Texas teams and a few New Mexico state champions were doing 7-on-7 football, he could get a few local teams to follow suit.
An idea turned into a series of phone calls, and through months of planning, Mendoza and six high schools have formed a weekend football league that is centered on building skills.
Teams in the league include Portales, Clovis, Bovina, Springlake-Earth, Farwell and Texico (as of July 5).
Mendoza, a 1989 graduate of Farwell High School, moved to Texico from El Paso in 2001, and figured he could take the concept of 7-on-7 football with him.
The sport, Mendoza said, is somewhat like 11-man football, but the absence of linemen allows teams to concentrate on backs and receivers — what he calls “skill positions.”
“When you run this or any type of summer camp,” Mendoza said, “you’re working on your skill people. All we do is throw the ball and catch the ball, and have them run their routes.”
With the passing game gaining popularity in high school football — Mendoza points to the success of Class 5A champ Las Cruces High — 7-on-7 football is gaining popularity. While he was in El Paso, Mendoza said the state of Texas had 32 state qualifying tournaments, with about 10 teams in each.
With 300 teams participating in Texas, Mendoza knew he could “definitely” get enough from the eastern New Mexico/west Texas area to field a worthwhile league. All of the teams involved are within driving distance of Clovis, where all of the games are played (at the AYSO soccer fields on 14th St.).
The players also have different rules for 7-on-7. There are no pads or tackles — players are considered down when touched by a defender. The quarterback cannot run beyond the line of scrimmage and must throw the ball within four seconds of the snap.
Portales High coach Glen Johnson thinks the summer league will help both receivers and defensive backs that do not have a great deal of varsity experience for the Class 3A runnerup Rams.
“It gives us a good opportunity to get together, work on some aspects of the game that we’re going to be looking to incorporate in the fall,” Johnson said.
“It gives us an excellent opportunity to work our pass defense. With the number of teams, it allows us the opportunity to see some different looks.”
Without the involvement of linemen, the playing field is somewhat leveled. Under these circumstances, a 1A Texas team like Bovina has a better chance to beat Clovis, a 5A New Mexico team.
That’s not something that bothers Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus, who said he joined up because “the kids like to play catch.”
“It helps our conditioning,” Roanhous said. “There’s not a whole lot of (similarity) to real football. It’s kind of like Sunday afternoon in the park, but the kids have a good time.”
Notes: Mendoza said the league will have a tournament July 25-27. The tournament is not limited to teams in the league and requires a $150 entry fee … Rules for 7-on-7 football are posted at the Texas Football website.