By Dave Wagner
Jeremy Buurma won’t admit he was surprised by Eastern New Mexico University’s Lone Star Conference football co-championship last fall.
That’s not to say he doesn’t understand others’ shock.
“(The season) turned out a lot better than a lot of people thought, maybe even to some of our own players,” said Buurma, ENMU’s starting quarterback who will be a redshirt junior in the fall. “But after (wins over) Midwestern (State) and WT (West Texas A&M), as we started getting wins under our belt we realized we could compete.”
Leading the way was Buurma, a Las Cruces High grad who waited in the wings for two seasons with Muleshoe’s Wes Wood under center, then won the starting job in the spring of 2013.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Buurma completed 54 percent of his passes last season, throwing for 11 touchdowns with just three interceptions.
“He did a great job,” ENMU coach Josh Lynn said. “We had the challenge (for the position) in the spring. He was our guy all the way.”
Lynn said Buurma is a good athlete, but mainly gets the team into the right plays and makes proper reads.
“That’s the kind of kid he is,” Lynn said. “He’s a 4.0 (student) in the classroom He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Of course, it’s unlikely the Hounds will sneak up on the competition this time around, if that was the case last year. On the other hand, they return a majority of key players on both sides of the ball.
“There’s a lot of good football teams in our league,” Lynn said. “This year is kind of different; we haven’t been in this situation (of trying to defend a title).
“The key is how we respond.”
Major losses for the Hounds on offense were all-conference fullback Christian Long and linemen John Mendoza and Kevin Smith.
“Those types of players are hard to replace, but I feel like we have the guys to replace them,” Buurma said.
Buurma, who is among a number of players spending the summer in Portales getting ready for the start of practice in August, expects opponents to view the Hounds differently in the fall.
“We’ve got a target on our back now, instead of the other way around,” he said. “But I think (the success of) last year will definitely help us.
“It’s nothing different. Going into last summer, you had to show people you’re not the last (-place) team in the conference. But we’ve got to work harder now because teams will probably prepare for us a little more than they did last year.”
It’s different personally for Buurma, who knows the job is his this year. Lynn, though, said the Hounds have a capable backup in Roswell Goddard grad Ryan Greene.
“He’s a solid No. 2,” Lynn said, adding that redshirt freshman Adam Lucero of Aztec also has potential.
Buurma isn’t going to rest on his laurels.
“Any phase of the game you can get better at,” he said. “I need to make better reads in the triple option. When you can make the right reads, that’s when we’re at our best.”