By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer
2007 brought with it a Portales state championship as well as the departure of a fixture in Portales High School sports. The year also witnessed the birth of two new local high school sports programs, but also heartbreak with the death of a beloved Portales native.
The year began with a record seventh consecutive appearance in the New Mexico Class 3A state championship basketball game for the Portales Lady Rams in March, losing to Hope Christian 43-40, followed in June by head coach Brenda Gomez announcing her retirement, ending her 22-year post on the Portales bench.
Gomez led the Lady Rams to five state championships and seven consecutive state championship game appearances from 2001-2007, but left the post to take the same position at Robinson High School in Waco, Texas.
Less than a month after the departure, Portales hired former Sudan coach and Texico assistant coach Clay Stout to replace Gomez. Early this season, Stout has led the Lady Rams to a 4-6 record.
In the spring, the Portales school board voted to restart the Portales high school boys and girls soccer programs after several dormant years, and Portales resident Traci Sievers was summoned to coach both programs.
Scott Parker and former ENMU Greyhound Grant Shanahan assisted Sievers as the Rams finished with a 4-7-1 record and the Lady Rams finished 3-11-1 in their first season back on the pitch.
Dora High School also added a program as the Coyotes fielded their first football team in school history, competing in area 8-man football in the fall. Former Portales Ram Pablo Pena was the head coach, leading Dora to an inaugural record of 2-5.
Our hearts were broken in mid-August with the death of former ENMU Zia basketball coach Dan Buzard at the age of 39 following a three-year battle with brain cancer.
The Portales native was an ENMU assistant under long-time Zia coach Wayne Moore for 13 seasons before replacing Moore as head coach in 2002.
“I was absolutely the luckiest person in the world to have him,” Moore said shortly after Buzard’s death. “You could search the world over, and not find someone as loyal as coach Buzard.”
The year ended with triumph, however, as the Lady Ram volleyball team claimed their fifth Class 3A state championship in the last eight years with a four-game victory over Las Vegas-Robertson in November.
Bethany Self was one of several seniors who hoisted the blue trophy.
“I was tired of second place,” Self said. “Tired of second — ready to go home with the blue trophy. I’ve been waiting for this and dreaming about it my whole life.”
Other significant local sports stories of 2007:
• The Dora Coyote basketball team placed second in the Class 1A state basketball championship in March, losing in the state finals to Gateway Christian.
• Former Portales Ram and Elida native Ryan Acosta was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball draft.
• The Portales girls placed second in the Class 3A state softball and tennis championships.
• The Floyd Broncos upset the two-time defending state champion Gateway Christian Warriors 32-28 on the road in the state 8-man playoffs. Two months earlier, Gateway Christian defeated Floyd at Floyd 62-0.
• The Elida volleyball team placed second in the Class 1A state championship, losing in the November finals to Animas. The Lady Tigers defeated district rival Fort Sumner in the semifinals.