By Christina Calloway and Kevin Wilson
CMI staff writers
Before the sound of loud, passionate cheering coming from hundreds of dedicated Portales High School football fans, Dennis Lopez enjoys the sound of a cackling sizzle on the grill.
The former Roosevelt County commissioner said that’s the sound people will hear before every Rams home game this season because he didn’t plan on just tailgating for the season opener Friday night at Blackwater Draw, he’s in it for the long haul.
“Hopefully we start building up the crowd. We’re going to try to get more people in here because we want it to prosper,” said Lopez, a self-proclaimed master of the grill. “We have a real good feeling about this football program this season and the community needs to get more involved. Without the community, a lot of these activities wouldn’t happen.”
In Clovis, Steve Mustato, former director of Play Inc., said wouldn’t have missed the opener now that he’s back in Clovis after living in Las Vegas, Nev.
“The town would shut down literally for a football game,” Mustato said. “It’s just Clovis. It is what it is.”
For both towns it was football mania, a chance to support the local home teams and a return from what seemed like another long hiatus from football fans who crave the season, including Portales Junior High School football player Elijah Ortiz.
He and his teammates had one of the loudest cheering sections in the crowd because he said one day that will be them on the field.
“I come every year to watch their defense,” Ortiz said. “They’re the best, they’re our hometown team. But it’s going to be way better when I get up there.”
Ortiz’ teammate Darren Hahn said he also likes to watch PHS’ defense play, with good reason as the Rams prevailed 14-6 over Robertson.
“I like the way their form is,” Hahn said. “I love everything about football. It’s my favorite sport just because of the way they run the ball.”
Charles Lott described the anxiety buildup before the first game, especially for his son, Clovis defensive back Peyton Lott.
“It means nerves, it means jitters, it means you finally get to hit somebody else for once,” said Lott, a 1995 CHS graduate. “Now that I’ve got Peyton on the field, it means tears of joy.”
Kenny Betts, a 2012 CHS graduate who now coaches eighth-grade football at Gattis Middle School in Clovis, said everyone looks forward to the first game of football.
“The anxiety is getting to me,” Betts said before Clovis lost to visiting Cherry Creek, Colo., 42-6. “It’s almost as bad as being in the locker room with my helmet on and my cleats laced up.”
Diana Corbin, a CHS band parent, doesn’t get to see the action because she helps out with concessions, but it’s something she wouldn’t miss on a Friday night.
“We never get to see any of the game, we hear when we get a score because the band plays,” Corbin said. “We as a group have a lot of fun together, this is like our second or third family here.”