Freedom New Mexico
Curry County Cats coach Paul Lopez was hoping his team could play the Albuquerque Titans on the turf field at Rio Rancho High School in Sunday’s New Mexico Premier League Pecos Division championship game.
Instead, the Cats will have to win to play there — for the league championship next weekend.
The Cats (6-2), who beat the Las Cruces Kings 13-6 with two late touchdowns at Leon Williams Stadium in a first-round game on April 30, face the regular-season division champion Titans (8-0) at 3 p.m. Sunday — on the same practice field at Del Norte H.S. where they lost 17-6 in late March.
Lopez wasn’t happy then about the playing facility, and isn’t any more pleased now. The first game was also pushed back two hours to 3 p.m.
“The biggest thing is they think they’re going to have an advantage,” he said. “We were going to split the cost (for the use of the Rio Rancho field), but they didn’t want to do that.
“That has a lot to do with the mental part of the game,” Lopez said. “But we’ll be ready this time.”
With a couple of forfeit wins during the season, the Cats should come in relatively healthy and well-rested. The down side, of course, is trying to stay sharp.
Lopez said his team, which played to a scoreless tie at halftime in the earlier matchup, hopes to attack the interior of the Titans’ defense more than last time.
“Their defensive ends fly up the field, so it’ll be rough to go outside,” he said. “But we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve. We’ve got some stuff they haven’t seen yet.”
The Titans also have Clovis High grad Phillip Williams, who plays cornerback on defense and is a threat as a kick returner.
The Cats plan to go with John Props at quarterback over Quinn Culiver, who has been playing more at safety on defense lately, Lopez said. They also hope to get the ball to running back Manuel Robles, through the air as well as on the ground.
“We just need to get clicking on offense,” Lopez said. “We haven’t really clicked on offense since the first couple of games.”
The winner meets the Rio Grande Division champion, either the New Mexico Wolfpack from the Bernalillo-Rio Rancho area or the Farmington-based New Mexico Miners, in the league championship game at 1 p.m. on May 22.