By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
Albeit with an expanded field, the Portales Rams are again a playoff team after a two-year drought.
Despite losing their final eight games of the season, the Rams (2-8) earned the No. 11 seed in Class 3A and will face Raton in a 7 p.m. Friday game at Tiger Stadium.
“We’re very pleased with the 11th seed,” Portales coach Glenn Johnson said. “Our record being what it is, it’s a compliment for people to see we played good enough football for a No. 11 seed.”
During its streak, Portales has lost to Class 4A schools such as Goddard, Roswell and Artesia and also played Denver City, Texas.
“You have to take into consideration who play week in and week out,” Johnson said. “I think that definitely came into play where people saw us being.
Portales fans have a reasonable opportunity to see both Portales teams in action Friday. Assuming the Portales volleyball team reaches Friday’s Class 3A semifinals, the latest the team would play is noon, so a two-hour match would give fans five hours to reach Raton (about 230 miles from Albuquerque) for the football game later that night.
Raton and Portales met earlier this year at Greyhound Stadium. The visiting Tigers returned an interception for a touchdown and scored on their first offensive play to take a quick 14-0 lead on the Rams and went on for a 28-8 victory.
After that game, Johnson said the Rams didn’t come out ready to play. He’s sure that won’t be the case Friday night.
“We’ve made a lot of improvements (since then). (It’s) a chance to redeem ourselves after seven turnovers and no field position for half of a football game.”
Should Portales win, it is guaranteed a home game the following week. Beyond the first round, game sites are determined by playoff histories between the respective teams. Both 14th-seeded Shiprock and third-seeded Las Vegas Robertson owe Portales a home game, but Johnson said that isn’t something he wants to talk about at this point.
The last playoff game Portales was involved in was the 2002 state title game. None of the players on the current Portales roster took part in that game.
“That’s going to be great for the young team we have,” Johnson said. “Taking nothing away from the seven seniors we have, but for those youngsters coming back, it’s a tremendous experience.
“It’s a new experience and hopefully not a one-time experience.”
All four District 4-3A teams earned a spot in the 16-team field. Lovington holds the top seed and will host Pojoaque, and fourth-seeded Ruidoso gets a home game against Thoreau. New Mexico Military Institute was seeded ninth and will travel to Socorro.
Portales would not face a District 4-3A opponent until the state championship game.
Volleyball team in Pool A
The Portales volleyball team will be a begin the state volleyball tournament, along with St. Michael’s, Bloomfield and Santa Fe Indian School.
Portales (19-3) will open up 5 p.m. Wednesday at the main gym of La Cueva High School against St. Michael’s. Before the season began, Portales coach Ruth Chavez said she felt the Lady Horsemen would be one of Class 3A’s strongest contenders.
“I’m happy that we’ll play St. Michael’s right off the bat because we’ll get off to a pretty good start,” Chavez said.
Portales’ other pool games will be at 6:20 p.m. (Bloomfield) and 7:40 p.m. (SFIS).
In a season of success — a 10-0 record against Class 3A and a 10-match winning streak — Portales’ one drawback has been its performance in pool play. In the Wildcat Invitational in Clovis and the Zia Classic in Roswell, Portales ended up in the consolation brackets after pool play. To that end, Chavez simply said, “We’re different from the team we were back then.”
Pool B includes Pojoaque, West Las Vegas, Thoreau and Socorro. Portales has played West Las Vegas twice and Socorro once, and owns three sweeps in those matchups.