By Kevin Wilson
BLACKWATER DRAW — The Raton Tigers went for the biggest upset of the high school football season. They ended up with a moral victory instead.
The host Portales Rams stayed perfect on the season when a two-point conversion from the visiting Tigers came up short in a 14-13 Ram win at Greyhound Stadium.
Portales (3-0) held off a late Raton charge and has likely kept its No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Class 3A poll. Raton (0-3) will continue to look for its first win next week against Tucumcari.
Following a 2-yard touchdown run from Jacob Trujillo, the Tigers trailed 14-13 and had to decide between tying the score and taking the lead with 4:05 to go. First-year coach Brock Walton decided on the latter and called his final timeout to set up a play.
“We play to win,” Walton said. “We’re not going to travel five hours on a bus to go into overtime.”
Walton said the Tigers ran what was a designed run play for Trujillo. He said he was banking on Portales’ defensive end to follow tight end Larry McCord into the end zone and create a running lane for Trujillo.
The lane didn’t open up, and instead Trujillo’s pass was broken up by Ram junior Tyler Rutherford.
“During the timeout, I think their coaching staff did a terrific job of coaching those kids,” Walton said. “They defended that play perfectly.”
With the Tigers trailing, they could do nothing but watch as the Rams ran out the clock to prevent an upset.
“The thing we say about this one is it goes in the win column,” Portales coach Glen Johnson said. “We just sat and had a team meeting and we talked about playing to our potential as opposed to playing to the level of our opponents.”
Johnson wasn’t sure if he would have done the same thing in Walton’s position, but he understood the thinking behind it.
“I put myself in their shoes, they don’t have a victory yet,” Johnson said. “They’ve played us a heck of a ball game. The kids need to taste a victory, you take a shot and go for the win.”
Raton never trailed by more than a touchdown and stayed alive as Ram receivers could not pull in passes from Seth Clabaugh. Clabaugh connected on two of 11 passes for 25 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Clabaugh’s touchdown was a 25-yard strike to senior Austin Pullen, who also had an interception in the second half. Pullen and the rest of the Rams receivers are trying to fill holes created by injuries to Chris Carter (thigh bruise, week-to-week) and Manuel Sisneros (spleen, season).
“We all felt like we had to step up,” said Pullen. “We have all been hurt. Other teams know we’re hurt so they’re trying to take advantage of that. So we have to step up.”
Rutherford had a 32-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter, but it was nullified by a holding penalty. Rutherford had the other reception for Portales, a screen for no gain.
Clabaugh ran 13 times for 62 yards and had Portales’ second touchdown, a 1-yard sneak on a fourth-and-goal. Kevin Welch hit his second of two extra points to put the Rams up for good.
Senior Cole Parrish had 61 yards rushing on nine carries.
Portales stays home to play Denver City on Friday. Johnson expects a better Mustang team than the one that blew out the Rams 46-20 last season — and he thinks the Rams will need to raise their effort to stay undefeated.
“I don’t want to take anything away from 3-0, our No. 1 ranking. Those are all good accomplishments to this point,” Johnson said. “But to play in late November and December, we need to start seeing our level of play increase.”