Saturday, December 3, 2011

'Cats, coaching staff prove plenty with third straight state title

Brad Cox/News-Sun
Lovington heads onto the field prior to its Class 3A state championship 
game against St. Michael's Saturday in Santa Fe.
  I'll be honest. I wasn't sure how Lovington was going to do this season. Losing 20 seniors, including all-everything quarterback Jacob Jameson, I thought it may be too much for the Wildcats to overcome.
  Even when playoff time came around and I did my predictions, I thought they'd make it to the finals but fall to top-seeded St. Michael's.
  I should've known better.
  Lovington rallied from a 10-0 deficit and went on to beat St. Michael's 14-10 Saturday up in the frigid weather of Santa Fe to claim its third-consecutive state championship.
  What impressed me about this state title is the Wildcats did it the complete opposite way they have the last two seasons.
  In 2009 and 2010, Lovington was racking up ridiculous numbers offensively and daring teams to outscore it.
  This season the Wildcats did it with a stout defense and strong running game.
  Credit has to go to coach Jaime Quinones and his coaching staff for adapting to the team's personnel.
  The last two years, Lovington had probably the best player in the state as its quarterback and many didn't give credit to Quinones and his staff.
  This season, you can't help but give credit to the coaches as well as the players who bonded as a team when times got the toughest (particularly with Quinones' mother passing away days prior to Lovington's state semifinal game).
  With this title, the Wildcats proved the program as a hole is as strong as ever – something many wouldn't have thought just six seasons ago.
  It was 2006, my first season covering football in Lea County (my beat was Lovington) and it was Quinones' first year as head coach for Lovington. I can't even imagine how miserable it must've been for him as the Wildcats lost their first seven games of the season with the closest game being a 19-point loss.
  Finally, Oct. 20, 2006, the Wildcats beat New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell 34-0. I'll never forget that look on his face as he finally got that elusive first W.
  Now six years and 48 wins later, Quinones is a three-time state championship coach and it couldn't have happened to a better person. Q is truly one of the good guys in the business.