By Dave Wagner
LOVINGTON — The Portales High Rams knew their hopes of a playoff berth heading into Friday’s District 4-3A and regular-season finale against Lovington were slim and none — and as the saying goes, slim left town early.
PHS hung in gamely with the Wildcats for most of three quarters before the dam finally broke, and Lovington walked away with a 37-6 victory to hand the Rams (3-7, 0-3 district) their seventh consecutive loss.
Still, Rams coach Glenn Johnson said he liked the way he team fought to the end.
“We came in looking for some character,” he said, “and we couldn’t have asked for a better reaction from our kids.
“We’re not looking at the scoreboard. We’re just looking at these young men that have to line up and put it on the line every Friday night.”
Lovington (5-5, 2-1), which qualified for the Class 3A playoffs as the district runnerup, took an 8-0 lead on Reggie Hargrove’s 54-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion early in the first quarter, but didn’t score again until the final minute of the third stanza after forcing a short Portales punt out of its own end zone.
“Through three quarters of football, it’s the best football we’ve played all year,” Johnson said. “That’s what we wanted to see.”
Despite struggling to put the game away, Wildcats coach Speedy Faith said he was confident after getting the early lead.
“I felt like our defense was going to play pretty good, so getting a quick touchdown kind of put pressure on (Portales) early,” he said. “Our defense has been playing pretty good over the last couple of weeks. The defensive coaching staff did a good job preparing.”
The Wildcats added three more touchdowns in the final period. Portales’ TD came on a 29-yard scamper by senior quarterback Tyler Rutherford with just over four minutes left.
Both Hargrove and junior Alonzo Navarro finished with more than 100 yards rushing for Lovington, which had a 364-168 advantage in total offense.
Faith said he was confident his team would make the playoffs if it took care of this game, but added that the Wildcats weren’t about to underestimate Portales.
“At the beginning of the week, they had our total, undivided attention,” Faith said. “I’ve been in this district too long to take Portales lightly.”
Rutherford completed 6-of-22 passes for 78 yards, led the Rams in rushing with 15 carries for 54 yards and also punted nine times for a 32-yard average. Senior Chris Carter added 31 yards rushing and caught four passes for 59 yards.
Injuries during the course of the season simply proved to be too much for the Rams to overcome, Johnson said.
“We knew we were going to be young depth-wise,” he said. “It was a tough task each week in district play, when you’re trying to prepare for playoff-caliber teams every week.”
Lovington 37, Portales 6
Portales 0 0 0 6 — 6
Lovington 8 0 6 23 — 37
L — Reggie Hargrove 54-yard run (Alonzo Navarro run), 7:22
L — Bryce Pinson 19-yard pass from Kevin Cartwright (pass failed), :27
L — Tyler Graham 25-yard pass from Hargrove (Cartwright run), 9:15
L — Lane McPherson 2-yard run with lateral (Conrad Lovejoy pass from Cartwright), 8:26
P — Tyler Rutherford 29-yard run (run failed), 4:05
L — Alonzo Navarro 19-yard run (Pinson kick), 2:05
First downs 6 14
Rushes-yards 28-90 47-210
Passing yards 78 154
Total yards 168 364
Comp-att-int 7-24-1 12-17-0
Punting 9-32.0 4-38.0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 4-2
Penalties-yards 9-71 13-115
RUSHING — Portales, Rutherford 15-54, Chris Carter 7-31, Eric Segovia 5-7, Cruz Ontiveros 1-minus 2. Lovington, Alonzo Navarro 17-109, Hargrove 21-108, Alfredo Navarro 2-4, Cartwright 3-3, Pinson 4-minus 14.
PASSING — Portales, Rutherford 6-22-1-78, Carter 1-2-0-0. Lovington, Cartwright 11-16-0-129, Hargrove 1-1-0-25.
RECEIVING — Portales, Carter 4-59, Ontiveros 2-19, Rutherford 1-0. Lovington, Graham 4-65, Alonzo Navarro 4-36, Pinson 2-44, Corral 2-9.