By Dave Wagner: Freedom New Mexico
Josh Bryan thought he’d had enough of football when he went to Eastern New Mexico University in the fall of 2009 and didn’t make it through the season.
Turned out he was wrong.
A 2009 Clovis High grad, Bryan was one of several former Wildcats who had big days Saturday as the Curry County Cats beat the Las Cruces Kings 31-13 in a New Mexico Premier League semipro football game at Leon Williams Stadium.
Bryan had a pair of pass interceptions for the first-year Cats (2-0), including one he returned about 50 yards in the fourth quarter to set up the game’s final touchdown. He almost had a third interception later in the period, but couldn’t hold on.
Former CHS quarterbacks John Props and Quinn Culiver took turns putting points on the board. Props threw a pair of TD passes while Culiver threw for one and ran for another.
The scoring tosses all went to ex-Wildcats — Jacob Jones from Props for 46 yards in the first quarter, Manuel Robles from Culiver for 33 yards in the second, and Moses Bibbs from Props for 38 in the fourth.
Bryan, a cornerback, didn’t figure he wanted to play any more after leaving the ENMU squad.
“I thought I’d lost my love for the game, but afterwards I regretted it,” he said. “This is my second chance now. It’s a second chance for everybody.”
He said returning to the grind part of football — practices, meetings, etc. — was a little hard.
“But I’m so excited (to play again), I can’t describe it,” he said, “just to get the pads back on and go hit somebody.”
Robles led the ground game with several solid gains, but Cats coach and Clovis High assistant Paul Lopez said the team’s offense isn’t quite in sync.
“This offense is going to take a while to start clicking, but once it does, we’re going to start putting up some numbers,” Lopez said.
The Kings (1-1), who blanked the Albuquerque Predators 27-0 in their opener, led 13-12 at halftime after quarterback Matt Parsons found P.J. Austin on a 33-yard TD pass with less than two minutes to go in the second quarter.
Running back Pierre Quiroz scored the first Las Cruces touchdown, bouncing off several would-be tacklers in the backfield and darting into the right corner of the end zone from 22 yards out in the opening stanza.
“Las Cruces came in here playing off emotions,” Lopez said. “They played danged good in the first half.”
The Cats, though, pitched a shutout the rest of the way. They went in front 17-13 in the third quarter when Ricardo Urquizo kicked a 25-yard field goal and Morris Sharp sacked Parsons in the end zone for a safety.
“Our defense plays together,” Bryan said. “We’re a solid team. We always try to get our offense the ball back, because we know they can score.
“We’re just hard hitters. We have a nose for the football.”
The Cats are not slated to play next week, but Lopez said they are trying to schedule a home game if possible. The next scheduled outing is March 6 on the road against the Albuquerque Black Hawks.