By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor
Anybody who saw Portales’ 36-6 win over West Las Vegas on Friday knows that Tularosa is more than likely to key on Ram junior Eric Segovia.
It’s not a fact that’s lost on junior running back Cruz Ontiveros, who may see a big role in his first action of the season. With the Wildcats hopeful to stop another performance like Segovia’s five-touchdown, 201-yard effort, there may be a lot more opportunities for Ontiveros and other Rams.
“They’re probably going to stack up the line against Eric,” said Ontiveros, who missed the season opener with a thigh injury, “and (the coaches are) going to use me in some different ways.”
Whatever the Rams do, and whatever the host Wildcats do to counter in tonight’s battle, neither head coach seemed as concerned about what the final score would be as the were about how much better their teams would be once the game ends.
“Of course, we tell (our players) what Portales is going to run,” said Tularosa coach Marc Kneeland, “but we focus on improving ourselves, not if we’re playing a bigger school.”
That’s all the Class 2A Wildcats could focus on for much of their season opener against 3A Hot Springs. The Wildcats trailed 6-0 midway through the second quarter, but Kneeland said bad blocking and tackling turned the game into a 30-0 rout.
Portales was also part of an opening night blowout, as the Rams led the Dons 26-0 in the second quarter. Segovia had 155 yards and four touchdowns before the Dons scored late in the half.
That performance wasn’t lost on Kneeland in his team’s film sessions.
“They look great. They played extremely well and you can tell that they’re a well-coached team,” Kneeland said. “They have good balance, but their running back was obviously impressive.”
Segovia’s performance and the win were good, Ram coach Glenn Johnson said, but not a point of satisfaction.
“I’ve told the kids all week, we’re not focusing on beating West Vegas and being satisfied with out play,” Johnson said. “We must continue to work and get better to the point we’re able to line up with the tough district opponents we have.”
The evidence would indicate that Portales is in Class 3A’s toughest district. Since New Mexico high schools were realigned into a five classifications in 2000, the four-team District 4-3A has won four state titles.
Add that to the state’s new playoff format, which allows 16 of Class 3A’s 24 schools to advance to the playoffs, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that every 4-3A team will reach the postseason.
“I can’t speak for other districts,” Johnson said, “but I know for a fact that as tough of a district we’re in, any of us has a chance to make big things happen in the playoffs.”
District champions and runnersup still advance to the playoffs, and eight at-large bids means a team could earn a playoff selection with a strong pre-district performance.
“If you have a losing record, you can still get in,” Ontiveros said. “You’ve just got to make every game count.”