By Kevin Wilson
Though he’s in pretty exclusive company right now, T.C. Nusser doesn’t consider himself a one-of-a-kind player by any means.
When the Portales High senior comes into tonight’s 7 p.m. game against West Las Vegas at Greyhound Stadium, he’ll be the only player that has started in each of the last three season openers.
The circumstance makes him a veteran by most standards, but the 6-foot, 230-pound lineman thinks there are enough veterans to keep Portales in line with the Class 3A elite.
“A lot of guys (here) played last year,” Nusser said. “Besides injuries, we’re looking pretty good.”
Portales has taken some hits in the injury department over the last two weeks. Some will be able to play, like senior Ricky Rivas (broken hand) — some will not, like lineman Mark Gore (hamstring) and linebacker Chris Hernandez (dislocated shoulder).
The Rams, the Class 3A runnerups in 2002, will face an early test against West Las Vegas. The Dons ended last season with a quarterfinal loss to Portales, but return a squad that the Ram coaching staff considers as one of the top five in the state.
“Those guys are doing a good job,” Portales head coach Glen Johnson said. “Coach (James) Esquibel has shown that he can put a good group on the field and execute and get after it.”
By most expectations, the offenses will be on display for each team. Portales had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last three seasons, but the Rams made a concerted effort in the offseason to create a pass-oriented offense — similar to the Dons in many ways.
“Our offenses, at this point in time, pretty much mirror each other,” Johnson said. “During the course of the week, our defense had a very good opportunity to see what they’ll be lining up against.”
To this point, the Dons haven’t seen exactly what they’ll be lining up against. In stretches, Portales will use a no-huddle offense that is based on the offense used by Pampa, Texas.
Every offensive player will have a sleeve, which includes four color-coordinated sets of 20 plays — 80 in all. A play will be called from the sidelines (i.e. Red-15) and the players check their sleeves for the respective play.
Most of the plays are similar, with variations in the receiver routes, and the players have said the system was easy to pick up.
“Our coaches do a really good job of keeping it basic,” Nusser said. “We have rules for every play we run.”
Johnson feels that the Rams will have a better chance of dictating the opposing defense with the no-huddle.
The Rams hope they’ll be able to add another element this season — a kicking game. Portales has gone years since even attempting a field goal, but Johnson said he’s comfortable enough with senior Kevin Welch to call for the field goal unit from the 25-yard line and closer.
“We’re very pleased that he decided to come out,” Johnson said of Welch. “We feel he’s going to be very successful and he’ll be able to step up and help us this year.”