By Kevin Wilson
FLOYD — No matter how good the Floyd Broncos are this year, the road to the six-man football state crown will not run through Floyd.
Actually, no game will go through Floyd this year, as poor field conditions at the northern Roosevelt County school will force the Broncos to play their entire season on the road.
Whether the Broncos play on the opposition’s field or at Portales Junior High’s field, second-year coach Jeff Gillespie is confident he’ll have a competitive team to put on it.
“We’ll be all right,” Gillespie said. “We’ve got some good senior leadership, and one of the better athletes in the state (in sophomore Jerrod Long).”
Gillespie figures the offense will go through Long, a 5-foot-9, 145 quarterback, and senior center Chance Chenault.
“He got stronger and he’s not afraid to hit anybody now,” Gillespie said of Long, the brother of former Portales high fullback Less Long.
The Broncos got off to a slow start last year due to a combination of player graduations and the fact that Gillespie was a first-year coach in six-man. Gillespie said it took him until the third game of last season to get a good feel for the differences between six-man and 11-man.
“I got a better idea of knowing which positions require which abilities,” Gillespie said. “I’m not saying I’m a genius, but it made it a lot easier to adjust (after a few games).”
Floyd recovered from an 1-4 start to claim the District 3 title, but the Broncos expect to have stiff competition from Melrose in district play. The Broncos will be tested early, as they open at Mountainair and travel next week to face Sanderson, Texas. Sanderson is No. 2 in Texas in the sixmanfootball.com rankings.
Chenault figures that Tatum is the odds-on favorite to win the state title, and Melrose is always tough because of the rivalry between the schools. One positive for the Broncos, Chenault feels, is that nobody’s expecting them to make a lot of noise this season after losing considerable talent in each of the last three seasons — Eastern New Mexico University currently has three players (Less Long, Bobby Reed and Fide Davalos) that were former Broncos.
“We won’t be (expected to be) the top guys in the state,” Chenault said, “but we come in at 7 a.m. and we work as hard as we can in the weight room, then we work as hard as we can out here (at practice).”
Notes: This season will have a new six-man champion. State champion Gateway Christian is not fielding a team this year due to mass transfers to new Roswell school Valley Christian. Sixmannation.com ranks Tatum as the top team in New Mexico, with Melrose No. 4. Floyd is not listed in the top five, but is one of five “teams to watch.”