BLACKWATER DRAW — Friday night’s football opener survived a rainstorm, and the Portales defense made sure it survived a challenge from West Las Vegas on an off-night for the Ram offense.
Junior Tyler Rutherford had two of five interceptions for Portales, which earned a 19-7 win over the visiting Dons at Greyhound Stadium.
On a night when the Rams’ passing game sputtered, the defense came up big throughout with as many interceptions on defense as Portales had completions on offense.
Rutherford said he didn’t expect the matchup to be battle of turnovers, but he was glad to know the defense stepped up when it mattered.
“We knew they were going to throw the ball deep,” Rutherford said, “and we had to cover.”
The teams combined for 11 turnovers on the night — six from the Dons and five from Portales. Rams coach Glen Johnson was uncomfortable with the number of times his team gave the ball away, but noted the Rams came out winners simply because “they had more than we did.
“We were definitely hoping it wouldn’t be (the reason we lost),” Johnson said, “because any time you turn the ball over you’re hurting yourself.”
Senior quarterback Seth Clabaugh had a forgettable showing in the passing department (5 of 25 for 54 yards and an interception), but led the Rams with 142 yards rushing on 18 carries.
Clabaugh opened the scoring with a 14-yard run late in the first quarter for a short-lived 6-0 lead.
West Las Vegas quickly answered with a four-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Justin Gallegos’ 35-yard touchdown reception.
Portales took the lead for good on Chris Carter’s 4-yard touchdown run with 6:28 to go in the second quarter. The defense took over from there.
West Las Vegas coach James Esquibel said the interceptions were a result of good plays from Portales and relative inexperience from Dons quarterback Michael Martinez.
“We saw some good things,” Esquibel said, “and we saw a lot of things that we as coaches have to go back and re-evaluate as far as personnel.
“Our guys were open, but our quarterback doesn’t have the experience yet to make those reads.”
Both teams were sent back to the locker rooms after the third quarter, with Portales leading 12-7 and a first-and-goal on the West Las Vegas 6.
Following a 15-minute delay, the Rams put the game away. On the first play of the fourth quarter, senior Cole Parrish scored on a 6-yard run. Kevin Welch’s extra point kick, the first in two seasons for Portales, ended the scoring.
Three of the Dons’ four fourth-quarter possessions ended on turnovers.
Dustin Bare recovered an Anthony Lucero fumble, and the Rams got interceptions from Jordan Harrison and Carter.
Carter’s interception came in the end zone with 11 seconds remaining.
The Rams travel to Tularosa on Friday.