Jul 15, 2023

Wildcat football rolls out at 12:01 a.m.

This story originally misstated the date of the free scrimmage, and has been corrected. The scrimmage is on Friday, Aug. 11.

Muggy nights were made for Wildcat workouts. The Deming High Wildcat football team got the drop on the official opening day of prep football in New Mexico with a 12:01 a.m. start on Monday at DHS Memorial Stadium. A preseason roster of about 35 to 40 hopefuls were put through conditioning drills and later broke into defensive and offensive schemes.

“We will be doing a lot of conditioning during the first two weeks of practice,” said first-year head coach Richard Perales. The off-season program was well attended by a strong core of returning Wildcat athletes. The conditioning is primarily to bring athletes new to the program up to speed.

Perales began his coaching career in 2000 under former Wildcat head coach Barey Chambers. He was an offensive line coach at that time and also for former coach Alfred Montez, who succeeded Chambers.

“I coached offensive line for Fernie (Holguin), and about halfway through I took over as coordinator and have been coordinator ever since, until this year when I took the head coaching job,” Perales told the Headlight.

Perales inherits a winning program established by former head coach Greg Simmons, who retired at the end of last season.

Perales points to a busy off-season where coaches installed their basic offense and defense.

“The kids worked hard in the weight room and I really like where the program is at right now,” Perales said. “We have a lot of work in front of us, but I like where we are at with our off-season work.”

Over the past six years, the Wildcat varsity program has suited up anywhere from 25 to 35 athletes. There are many challenges as a Class 4A program when the numbers are lacking.

“You know, we get to the quarterfinals or semifinals in the playoffs and we look over to the opposing sidelines and we see 60 kids suited up, and here we are with our 25 players,” Perales pointed out. “Our boys put the work in all year long and they understand that there is no one is coming over the mountain to help them out. It’s just us on that sideline and we make do with what we got.”

This year, the Wildcats will travel with 30 or so players. Six seniors are the core of the program and the rest will be underclassmen. A group of sophomores will be sprinkled into the defense and they will have to grow up early this season, according to Perales.

The chalk talks and on-field executions show that the young group of players are paying attention and learning. “We have already installed our special teams unit this week,” Perales noted.

Wildcat linemen Isaac Ledezman (64) and Christian Almaraz (74) are put through footwork drills during midnight practice July 31 at DHS Memorial Stadium. (Billy Armendariz/Deming Headlight)

Perales plans to use special teams as a weapon this season. This is one area that was lacking last season in terms of establishing field position. “I am looking for players who can catch punts and kickoffs and better our starting position on the field,” he said.

Fifteen minutes a day will be dedicated to special teams play.

The midnight practice dedicated its first 40 minutes to conditioning and circuit training before taking a look at the offense.

The first three days were in helmets and shorts. On Wednesday, pads were distributed to the players and full contact began at mid-week.

“That first day in pads, we are gonna hit,” Perales said in addressing the team’s physicality. “We are going to put that $500 of equipment to work.”

The varsity program received new and improved helmets.

The Wildcats are preparing for a controlled scrimmage with the visiting Cobre High Indians of Bayard. Each team is expected to run about 25 plays beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, at DHS Memorial Stadium.

Both teams do not have the luxury of full second units. They expect to run young players through some off the offensive and defensive sets.

Admission to the scrimmage is free.

Billy Armendariz is the Headlight sports editor. He can be reached at [email protected].