These next three weeks will be crucial for the New Mexico Rush, who have been somewhat sidelined these past few months due to some unforeseen circumstances.
“We took a slow start,” Rush owner Paul Lopez told Developmental Football USA. “We’ve still got a few more things that we have to do. We’re kind of under the gun, my daughter has had some medical issues, she took an injury in soccer and has had some seizures so I’ve been working on getting her back.”
With family having importance over a hobby, Lopez has handed the head coaching duties over to Sean Reeves out of Roswell, so he can focus solely on the general manager position as well as his family.
All circumstances aside, Rio Grande Football League play kicks off in three weeks and ready or not, here it comes.
At this point the Rush only have 23 players on the roster, compared to the 40 to 70 of most teams in the league. However, New Mexico is about to host tryouts in other cities and should have no problem adding quality players in these next two weeks.
“We’re at about 23 players right now and that’s without heading out to Roswell which we’re going to do on the 11th,” Lopez said. “Then we’ll go to the Portales area if we don’t feel strong enough after that.
“We’re going to move more north, from right now we’re thinking the Curry County Cats, nor the Curry County Chiefs, are going to make it. We’re going to reach more out to that area and the Portales area with Eastern New Mexico being close, that’s kind of where we’re at.”
Last season, the Rush welcomed a group of players from the currently defunct Hub City Bison. The most notable of that group, linebacker Trae Ivory, is now with the West Texas Scorpions, which have joined the RGFL.
“The Roswell area has a lot of good football in that area, plus Portales and Clovis,” Lopez said. “We just want to get local guys. Those guys that did come out from Lubbock did help us. It helped us get over that hump for the first year, but I don’t look at doing that again. We want to get local guys.”
Regardless of who the Rush adds or doesn’t add, they feel confident with what they already have.
“The guys that are around know how to run what we want to run so we’re not too worried,” Lopez said.
The Rush finished 5-6 in their inaugural season one year ago and they hope to do even better this season, which makes these next few weeks that much more important.
“It just depends on how these guys mesh up, which I think it’s good,” Lopez said. “The southeastern part of this state, everybody knows everybody and has played against each other, and there are a few colleges in the area and a lot of guys that want to play some ball. I think things around going to work out. We want a winning season, we want to compete. We’re looking at six or seven wins. That’s our goal for this year.”
In the RGFL this year, every week looks to be a battle as the West Texas Drillers, the Scorpions, the Lubbock Liberty Eagles and the Borderland Warriors have all joined the fold to compete with the existing members.
“I think the Las Cruces Kings are always in the mix and bringing in the West Texas Drillers, those are going to be two tough teams to deal with,” Lopez said. “I think those are two top teams that everybody is going to have to run through.”
A few key returners on offense will need to have a strong season and stay healthy if the Rush are to get to that six or seven win mark.
“We’re going to have two or three good linemen,” Lopez said. “Jake Wright, he played center for us. The quarterback position is up in the air. We’ll have Travis Wilkinson, he’s one of our running backs, he’ll be there. Brandon DiComillo is one of our receivers that’s returning. We’ve got another kid that I recruited out of the Clovis area, Dontay Dowdy, he’s young and fresh, kind of a scat back type kid.”
At this point, several players will be expected to contribute on both sides of the ball until more help shows up.
“Dakota Bolen, he’s one of my guards and he plays a lot of defense too and he’s even ran the ball pretty good,” Lopez said. “He’s always there no matter what, so that really helps us out.
“Dakota Bolen at defensive tackle for sure, we got DeMaurier Walters at defensive end. That’s going to help us out. Travis Wilkinson will probably be playing some safety and we picked up a kid Isaiah Ayala, who just got done playing at Western. He’s a Carlsbad kid also and I’ll probably be moving him around at the defensive back spots.
“We have Nate Vasquez at outside backer, he’s a local kid out of this area. He’s really tough and shows up for us. He’s one of those guys, when someone doesn’t show up and he has to play line, a 220 or 230-pound linemen. In the first years it’s rough trying to build especially in an area that doesn’t have as many people as Lubbock, El Paso, and Midland.”
This season the Rush plan to host games in various cities in Eastern New Mexico to expand their influence and become more of a regional team instead of a city team.
“Carlsbad High School is pulling out the turf and replacing it,” Lopez said. “Depending on how long that takes, I’ve already talked to the athletic director at Eastern New Mexico and they’re not using Blackwater Draw. They’re building a new stadium, so we can play there for some home games. We’re looking there and we’re looking at New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. We don’t want to base out of one place but take over this whole eastern side of the state.”