Even back in the 1800s things were rarely placid in and around Las Vegas, N. Mex. It seemed there was always something—from a shoot-out to a fistfight—to liven up the town. Just like its fabled namesake today, Las Vegas then was big-time when it came to local entertainment—from Black Jack Ketchum and Rattlesnake Sam to Little Jack the Cutter and not only one, but two Billy the Kids. Las Vegas' reputation for virility even reached Teddy Roosevelt, who recruited a few of its hardy souls for his Rough Rider regiment.
Now Las Vegas people have become more enchanted with football than they ever were with gunplay, for last year New Mexico Highlands—that unimposing little liberal arts school out on University Avenue—didn't lose a game all year and wound up fourth in the nation. To make things even more exciting, the Cowboys ran up 533 points to the opposition's 53.
This year Highlands should be just as good, although the margin of victory may be somewhat less until sophomore Quarterback Steve Pruitt gains some experience. "The defense gave us great field position last year," says Coach John Levra. "I expect it to do it again. We don't expect to win by quick-kicking."
The only player the Cowboys will really miss is Halfback Carl Garrett, who was drafted early by the Boston Patriots, but 23 lettermen—including six stars of that proud defense—are back. David Graham, a 260-pound tackle, is a definite pro prospect and he'll have a lot of help from Linebacker John (Pocahontas) Smith and Halfback McKinney Evans. All Pruitt has to do is throw the ball in the general direction of Larry Kelly, a speedy flanker who is as popular on campus as he is talented. "Yeah," says Levra, "Larry's a real Coke 'n' jokin' type."
When the Wilkes College Colonels of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. trot onto the field against Lycoming on Sept. 27, they will be putting the nation's longest winning streak on the line. Since 1965 the Colonels have won 29 straight games. Last year they once again won the Lambert Bowl, which is given annually to the best small college team in the East.
Defense is the secret at Wilkes (the Colonels have posted 10 shutouts and given up seven points only 11 times during the streak), and this year, with eight back on the platoon, look for more of the same. The attack? Well, nobody can be sure about the attack.
Quarterback Joe Zakowski has become famous for his unpredictability. A left-handed passer, he is a gambler somewhat reminiscent of the old Johnny Unitas. "Joe's just not normal," says Ed (Bucko) Burke, a starting tackle. "He's the kind who on third down and 15 will run a quarterback sneak [even Unitas wouldn't do that] and make 16 yards. We're always confused by what Joe does—but he's a winner."
"When Joe was born, the doctor tried to make him a righthander," says Mrs. Zakowski, "but it didn't work and I'm glad it didn't. He's just fine as he is. You should see how neat he prints."
The Colonels, who will be defending their fourth straight Middle Atlantic Conference championship, are a proud group. "We have a good bunch of guys," says Center George (Deacon) Conway. "We've got a few guys with long hair, like Zakowski, but the guys seem to realize you can't keep long hair and still win. So most of us cut our hair short in the football season." Mrs. Zakowski agrees. "Just a few of them even wear sideburns," she says. "But even when they do, they aren't hunkie-looking."