By Dave Wagner
Since a 3-0 start, it’s been pretty much nothing but tough times for the Portales High Rams.
Things don’t look to get much easier this week when they travel to Lovington for Friday’s 7 p.m. District 4-3A and regular-season finale.
The Rams (3-6, 0-2 district) are out of the postseason running and can only hope for a finish like last season when, already eliminated from playoff contention, they routed New Mexico Military 39-0 in their finale.
“We’re looking for lots of character in this ballgame, and that comes from (the players),” PHS coach Glenn Johnson said. “We’ll just have to see how we react.”
Meantime, Lovington (4-5, 1-1) has been coming on of late despite a 21-12 loss at home last week to New Mexico Military. That places extra importance on this game for the Wildcats, who lost in the 3A state finals last year to St. Michael’s.
“It’s a huge game for us,” veteran Lovington coach Speedy Faith said. “It’s all on the line.
“I think they’ve got a good ballclub. They’ve played a tough schedule, and they’ve had some bad breaks with injuries.”
PHS and Lovington have played remarkably similar schedules with six common opponents. The Wildcats were 3-3 against those teams while the Rams went 1-5.
“They’re a pretty good football team,” Johnson said of Lovington. “The thing we’re most impressed with is their overall strength and speed.
“The biggest difference in the two schedules is that they’ve lined up and played relatively healthy, and we’ve been putting kind of a patchwork team on the field for the last four weeks.”
The Rams lost sophomore middle linebacker Kaleb Aguirre (knee) last week against Ruidoso. “He’s a guy that’s started (this season) since day one,” Johnson said.
Senior two-way tackle Dustin Williamson (knee), injured two weeks ago against NMMI, may play this week but is still questionable, Johnson said.
“We’ll have to see where he is at the end of the week,” Johnson said.
Although the Wildcats have had Portales’ number for quite some time, Faith said he expects the Rams to come in and play well.
“It’ll be a good game,” he said. “I think the kids in the communities enjoy it. It’s just one of those games where you can throw out the records.”
Faith, like Johnson, said he puts little emphasis on overall record, noting that the district is usually the best in the state in Class 3A and has sent at least one team to the finals since the NMAA went to five classes in 2000.
“I feel good about (the prospects for) any of our district teams that get to the playoffs,” he said. “We don’t worry as much about our record as we do about just trying to play better each week.”
Portales at Lovington
7 p.m. Friday
Records: Portales 3-6 (0-2 District 4-3A), Lovington 4-5 (1-1).
Coaches: Portales, Glenn Johnson, 7th year; Lovington, John “Speedy” Faith, 14th year.
Radio: KSEL-AM 1490.
Last week: The Rams dropped their sixth game in a row, falling to Ruidoso 45-13 at Blackwater Draw. The Wildcats were beaten at home by New Mexico Military 21-12.
Last meeting: 2003, Lovington used several big plays to take control and hand the Rams a 36-6 loss at Blackwater Draw.
Ruidoso players to watch: Andrew McCraw, Sr. DT, 5-10, 230; Lane McPherson, Sr. DE, 6-0, 190; Zenoon Arroyo, Sr. DE, 5-10, 180; Manny Murillo, Jr. G-DT, 6-0, 190; Zlonzo Navarro, Jr. RB-MLB, 5-10, 170.