By Dave Wagner
Melrose’s Coy Speer was so busy blocking for junior Carlos Ruiz that he wasn’t aware of what his teammate had accomplished.
Ruiz scored a national record 13 touchdowns — 12 on rushing plays and one on a kickoff return — as the Buffaloes mauled Animas 100-55 on Saturday in a six-man state semifinal game.
“I didn’t know how many touchdowns Carlos had,” said Speer, a senior fullback-linebacker. “I didn’t realize it until after the game.”
Melrose (10-1) plays its third consecutive road game during the playoffs — and eighth of the season — when it visits District 3 rival Floyd at noon Saturday for the six-man title. The game will be broadcast on KSEL-FM 95.3.
The Broncos (10-0) handed the Buffs their only loss of the season, a 28-20 decision at Floyd in the regular-season finale, and both teams expect another competitive matchup.
“I think turnovers will determine the game,” said third-year Floyd coach Jeff Gillespie, whose team survived three lost fumbles in a 49-16 win on Saturday at Mountainair. “Turnovers will be hard to overcome in this game. Hopefully, we got them out of us against Mountainair.”
Melrose is playing in its fifth six-man finals in coach Dickie Roybal’s nine seasons as the school. The Buffaloes’ lone title in that time came in 1999.
Melrose trailed Floyd 22-6 after one quarter the last time, and couldn’t make up the deficit even though it held the Broncos to just one touchdown the rest of the way.
“We didn’t play well, but we were fortunate enough to keep the game close,” Roybal said. “As upset as I was (after the game), I was pleased with that.”
Speer said the Buffs are determined to get off to a better start.
“We just need to come out and play a little better,” he said. “It’s a matter of how we come out and start the game. I know we can beat them if we play well.”
Roybal said he’s had a tough time against Gillespie. The two coaches live only a few houses apart in Clovis.
“Him and I are pretty much best friends,” Roybal said. “It’s competitive, but it’s fun. Jeff does a great job; he’s a good coach.
“Of all the six-man coaches, he’s the toughest one. I can usually run a lot of trick stuff and fool people, but not him.”
Gillespie doesn’t expect either team to resort to trick plays in this game.
“With these two teams, you don’t take chances because those are high-risk plays,” Gillespie said. “You don’t want to put the ball on the ground.
“In the first game everyone was a little tight, but I think this game will be a little higher-scoring and a little more wide-open.”
On the other hand, Broncos senior Brad Lee isn’t so sure.
“I expect it to be low-scoring again, maybe in the 30s this time; both teams have good defenses,” said Lee, who plays end on offense and cornerback on defense. “I think both teams might be nervous for a while, but we want to prove that when we beat them earlier it wasn’t a fluke.”
Lee said the main challenge is trying to keep the speedy Ruiz, a state track sprint champion, from going off.
“We have to contain him, not let him get outside,” he said. “We just need to play hard on defense and execute on offense.”