By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
Fide Davalos enjoyed a dominating six-man high school football career at Floyd.
Now the redshirt junior is hoping for a breakout season this fall as a slotback in Eastern New Mexico University’s triple-option attack.
“I’ve been working out hard this summer, and I had a good spring,” Davalos said as the Greyhounds began fall practice this week. “We’ve got all the elements on offense to be productive this year.”
After his standout prep career that included a six-man state championship as a junior in 2000, Davalos made the considerable jump to the NCAA Division II college level.
He’s progressed slowly but steadily at ENMU, spending his freshman year as a redshirt, then earning backup duty the next year and starting several games last season.
“It’s been an adjustment,” Davalos acknowledged. “(Running the ball) was the same; the object is still the same. But as to reading different defenses and (learning) blocking schemes, that was the big adjustment.
“I didn’t have doubts that I could play, but sometimes I would question if I was prepared. But the coaches here do a great job.”
First-year Eastern head coach Mark Ribaudo anticipates good things from Davalos.
“Fide was our best running back in the spring,” Ribaudo said. “Fide’s role will be as a major contributor to the offense.”
Ribaudo said Davalos’ path to a starting spot is not an uncommon one at Eastern.
“Our program is a building process,” he said. “You come in as a freshman and learn things, and as a sophomore you refine (what you’ve learned).”
He missed three games last season after suffering a knee injury against East Central, then had to wear a knee brace when he came back for the final few games.
Davalos, who finished 2004 with 48 carries for 181 yards and one touchdown and 13 pass receptions for 112 yards and a TD, said the injury — and the brace — slowed him down.
“I wasn’t that mobile (with the brace), but I won’t need it this year,” he said. “I’ll be running the ball, and I’ll be in the passing schemes.
“I didn’t run the ball much (last year). They used me more for blocking and receiving.”
While first-year running backs coach Josh White hasn’t seen Davalos in game action, he’s confident the 6-foot, 195-pounder can get the job done.
“Fide had an awesome spring, and I expect him to contribute a lot,” White said. “It’s time for him to take on the role of being a leader of the team. He has a lot of potential, and I’m hoping I can bring some of that out of him.”
Born in Ontario, Calif., Davalos said his family moved to the area when he was 9. Other than immediate family, most of his relatives still live in southern California.
He said he returned for a visit this summer for the first time in several years. “I felt a little more like a tourist this time,” Davalos said.
“I feel like this is home, honestly,” he said of eastern New Mexico. “Growing up in this area, the people around here are really nice and they’ve accepted me.”
With many key players back, the Hounds expect a productive season on offense. They graduated two-year starter Steven Hinson at quarterback, but anticipate redshirt sophomore Michael Benton will make a smooth transition.
“It’ll be a lot different without Steve,” Davalos said. “Steve was a great player and we’re going to miss him.
“Michael Benton has some big shoes to fill, but hopefully he can do it.”
White and Ribaudo expect to throw some wrinkles into the offensive scheme this fall.
“I’m expecting an excellent year for our offense,” Ribaudo said. “The (offensive) coaches here busted their hump all spring to refine it.
“I think there’s some good football ahead of us. I’m excited about our offense this year and what it’s going to do over the next few years.”