By Dave Wagner
BLACKWATER DRAW — Try as they might, the Portales High Rams simply couldn’t contain Jason Thomas and New Mexico Military’s powerful ground attack.
Thomas rushed for 263 yards — 204 in the first half — and scored five touchdowns in the first three periods while sophomore fullback Bryson Carl added 119 yards and three fourth-quarter TDs as the Colts rolled to a 54-27 win Friday night in the District 4-3A opener for both teams at Greyhound Stadium.
NMMI (7-1), ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, wore the Rams down after Portales (3-5), which lost its fifth consecutive game, kept the game close for most of the first three quarters.
Several Rams went down hurt during the game, including 350-pound senior two-way lineman Dustin Williamson (dislocated knee), who tried to keep going for a play or two despite the injury.
“That typified the effort our kids gave tonight,” PHS coach Glenn Johnson said. “Many times we could’ve quit, but they (Rams) played through it.
“Like I told the kids afterwards, as long as they know they gave 100 percent there’s no reason to hang their heads.”
The Colts finished with 542 yards — all on the ground. Thomas, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior, punished the Rams’ defense early and Carl took over late.
“We’ve been riding our offense for a few games now,” NMMI coach Dwight Burns said. “Our defense had some good moments, and some ugly moments.
“I was real pleased with the way we came out in the second half. We needed to get a couple of stops defensively, and we did that. Once we got up two touchdowns again, it made things a lot easier.”
Senior Chris Carter, who left briefly in the third quarter after getting dinged up, went most of the way at quarterback for the Rams and rushed for a pair of touchdowns and 130 yards.
“Carter is a real threat,” Burns said. “We just couldn’t tackle him tonight.”
Burns set the tone quickly, bolting off left tackle and escaping a couple of Rams tacklers en route to a 43-yard touchdown run on the game’s second play from scrimmage. He ended NMMI’s first four possessions with touchdown runs before the PHS defense was able to register a couple of stops late in the half.
“That’s what we saw in watching video — he’s a strong, powerful runner,” Johnson said of Thomas. “It’s not only his strength, but when he got in the open field he showed some speed.”
Meantime, Portales scored on three of its five first-half possessions and trailed just 26-20 at the intermission, with Carter hurling a 48-yard touchdown bomb to senior Tyler Rutherford in the first quarter and scoring on runs of 2 and 4 yards in the second stanza.
“I was very pleased with our execution at times,” Johnson said of his offense, which had scored only 15 points in the previous four games. “We did some good things out there.”
The Rams missed a chance early in the third quarter when NMMI quarterback Justin Richter was hit as he tried to pass and three Rams were in position to pick off the wobbly ball near the NMMI 15. But no one came down with it.
On the next play, Carl took advantage of a wind at his back to boot a 68-yard punt and, with a holding penalty at the end of it, the Rams had to start from their own 9.
After forcing a punt, the Colts went 54 yards in nine plays with Thomas getting his final TD from 6 yards out over left tackle. Carl then scored on NMMI’s next three possessions to put the game completely out of reach.
New Mexico Military 54, Portales 27
NMMI 19 7 8 20 — 54
Portales 6 14 0 7 — 27
N — Jason Thomas 47-yard run (James Martin kick), 10:59
N — Thomas 5-yard run (run failed), 7:08
P — Tyler Rutherford 48-yard pass from Chris Carter (kick failed), 6:00
N — Thomas 2-yard run (pass failed), 2:36
P — Carter 4-yard run (Mark Vanniewkoop kick), 11:53
N — Thomas 49-yard run (Martin kick), 8:15
P — Carter 2-yard run (Vanniewkoop kick), 1:12
N — Thomas 6-yard run (Thomas run), 2:34
N — Bryson Carl 12-yard run (Martgin kick), 9:45
N — Carl 43-yard run (Martin kick), 7:43
P — Cruz Ontiveros 36-yard pass from Tyler Rutherford (Vanniewkoop kick), 6:48
N — Carl 4-yard run (kick failed), 2:30
First downs 19 11
Rushes-yards 63-542 27-198
Passing yards 0 106
Total yards 542 304
Comp-att-int 0-3-0 5-18-1
Punting 2-57.0 6-29.8
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 11-90 4-33
RUSHING — New Mexico Military, Thomas 24-263, Carl 14-119, Justin Richter 17-94, Nicholas Sabellico 8-66. Portales, Carter 17-130, Eric Segovia 7-49, Rutherford 2-18, Ontiveros 1-1.
PASSING — New Mexico Military, Richter 0-3-0-0. Portales, Carter 3-9-0-57, Rutherford 2-9-1-49.
RECEIVING — New Mexico Military, none. Portales, Ontiveros 2-36, Rutherford 1-48, Carter 1-13, Mario Salazar 1-9.