By Dave Wagner, Freedom Newspapers
Eastern New Mexico University’s Jeremy “J.T.” Thompson doesn’t mind his backup role, for the time being.
Thompson, a redshirt sophomore from Sweetwater, Texas, and starting quarterback Michael Benton provided quite a 1-2 punch in a season-opening 63-20 win over Bacone on Aug. 25 in Muskogee, Okla.
Benton rushed nine times for 182 yards and scored four touchdowns. Thompson picked up 171 yards on 11 carries with three TDs.
The Greyhounds host North Division foe Northeastern State (Okla.) at 6 p.m. today in a Lone Star Conference crossover game at Greyhound Stadium.
Thompson said he’s willing to take his playing time as it comes behind Benton, a senior and third-year starter.
“It’s a blessing to be behind Michael Benton,” Thompson said. “He’s taught me a lot.
“Mike is like a role model to me. Just watching him makes you a better player.”
Thompson got only a few plays under center last season, when Benton got hurt in a game at Tarleton State. He was used primarily as a kick returner, but has relinquished those duties this season to get ready for what he hopes will be a starting role in the future.
“I want to be a quarterback this year and learn the system,” Thompson said. “You’ve just got to be prepared.”
Northeastern drubbed the Hounds 42-7 last year, but Thompson said he doesn’t feel a sense of revenge going into tonight’s game.
“We’re going to go out there with some intensity and confidence,” he said. “I just want to go out there and play football.”
While Northeastern hasn’t had a winning season since going 9-2 and making the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2000, ENMU coach Mark Ribaudo expects the Hounds to have their hands full.
The RiverHawks lost their opener to Arkansas Tech 20-13 last week, but with a few breaks could have just as easily won, according to Ribaudo.
“Northeastern is a solid football team,” he said. “They’re always going to play good defense, and they’re sound on special teams.”
He said the RiverHawks, with a new offensive coordinator in Jason Munoz, have gone to a more wide-open attack.
“They ran a lot of screens and bootlegs (against Arkansas Tech),” Ribaudo said. “We’ve had some good battles with them, but last year they really got after us.”
The 12 days between games has been beneficial for his team, Ribaudo said.
“We’re trying to get our legs under us after (preseason) two-a-days,” he said.
Northeastern State at ENMU
When: 6 p.m. today at Blackwater Draw
Records: Northeastern State 0-1, ENMU 1-0.
Season openers: ENMU beat NAIA member Bacone 63-20 on Aug. 25 at Muskogee, Okla. Northeastern lost at home to Arkansas Tech 20-13 last Thursday.
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3.
On the Net: www.enmusports.com
Coaches: Northeastern State, John Horner, 5th year; ENMU, Mark Ribaudo, 3rd year.
Last week: Northeastern beat the Greyhounds 42-7 in the season opener at Tahlequah, Okla..
Northeastern State players to watch: Shane Cates, 5-11, 245, Sr., LB; Damein Henderson, 6-0, 200, Jr., WR; Joe Hogan, 6-3, 205, Sr., QB; Josh Lewis, 5-9, 190, So., TB; Broderick Mondy, 6-2, 210, Jr., DB.
Notes: The school has changed its nickname from “Redmen,” or “Lady Reds” for the women, to “RiverHawks.” … Both coaches served as defensive coordinators at their current schools before taking over the head coaching positions. … Horner is trying to get the Northeastern program turned around. His record as head coach so far is 9-32, including 4-6 in 2006. … Lewis rushed for 107 yards on 25 carries against Arkansas Tech, while Henderson caught nine passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Hogan completed 31 of 47 passes for 278 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times. … ENMU and Northeastern have played on Thursdays each of the last two years, by mutual agreement. Ribaudo said it came on a suggestion from Horner.
Quotable: “We need to be able to run the option. If we can, we have a pretty decent chance. And our pass defense has to improve from Bacone.” — Ribaudo, on tonight’s matchup.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner