ROSWELL — Without the pressure of playoff possibilities and with any spoils of victory limited to what transpired on Colt Field, the Portales Rams had one of their most dominant performances in recent memory.
The Ram offense controlled the ball and the defense controlled the field in a 39-0 rout over New Mexico Military Institute to give a happy ending to a disappointing season.
“After being in the playoffs for the last three years, and playing for the state championship last season,” Portales coach Glen Johnson said, “the kids returning had loads of pressure on them. They came out without any pressure and they showed the kind of football players, the kind of football team they are.”
The Colts needed a win and a Lovington loss to claim District 4-3A’s second playoff spot, but neither happened. Lovington defeated Ruidoso 72-28 to win the district title and the Ram defense made sure the Colts never got on track.
Portales took a 6-0 lead on the opening drive with a 6-yard run from Chris Carter, then added a quick score when a botched NMMI punt started the next Ram drive on the Colt 15.
Cole Parrish scored on a 2-yard plunge, and the Ram defense took over from that point on. The Colts, averaging 30.9 points, were held to 109 yards of offense.
Senior defensive end Ricky Rivas admitted it got hard at times to keep focused with Portales winning easily, but he said the memory of nearly being shut out by Lovington last week was more than enough motivation.
“We wanted to go out and have some fun since we’re not playing for anything,” Rivas said. “We wanted to destroy someone, have some fun.”
Senior quarterback Seth Clabaugh didn’t have jaw-dropping numbers — 179 yards rushing and two scores and 72 yards passing with another touchdown — but he and his teammates strung together several drives and controlled the ball for 28:22.
The Rams punted only once and had one turnover — a fumble by Chris Carter, who relieved Clabaugh at quarterback with 5:30 left in the fourth.
Without the need to be conservative, the Ram offense completes several long passes and gave NMMI coach Dwight Burns a little more than he and his team expected.
“They were better than what we saw on film,” Burns said. “Clabaugh connected on some crucial plays to give them momentum.”
With Portales’ pass defense playing well — junior Tyler Rutherford had three near-interceptions on long passes from Colt quarterback Ryan Najar — the Colts became a one-dimensional team, running the ball even with a huge deficit.
“(Najar) wasn’t throwing the ball very well and they weren’t protecting him,” Burns said, defending his choice to run the ball. “Let (fans) figure out stuff to say Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll have something to say.”