By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
Portales coach Glenn Johnson shared a saying with his seven seniors during the football season — adversity introduces a man to himself.
Monday let him know the message stuck.
“We had a team meeting today (Monday) and we let our seniors visit with the team,” Johnson said. “The most common thing talked about was the adversity they had to go through this year.
“It’s going to help them out later, being successful in life.”
Johnson’s hopeful that adversity will help others on the football field in 2006. For eight teams in Class 3A, the 2005 season is ongoing. For Portales, the 2006 season started after Friday night’s 15-8 loss at sixth-seeded Raton.
Raton defeated Portales 28-8 earlier in the season, but junior Hunter Rackler felt the Rams played better at Raton due to the different atmosphere.
“It changes some things because it becomes do or die,” Rackler said. “That’s obviously going to change your mindset. The fact that if you lose, you’re done really hit us hard in practice last week.”
With playoff experience in hand and with a talented junior class coming back, Johnson feels good about next year’s chances.
Assuming Eric Segovia recovers from his knee injury a month ago in Lovington, the Rams will come into next season with starting quarterback Mario Salazar, their top three running backs and three of their best receivers returning.
“We’re looking pretty good skill-wise right now,” Johnson said. “(Our running game is good) with Eric, Ricky (Lovato), Mario and Cruz (Ontiveros) and we’re covered at wide receiver with Hunter (Rackler), (Todd) McBroom and Kevin Gonzales.”
On the defense, Johnson said he feels even better. The Portales defense that held Raton in check for most of Friday night and gave the Rams a chance at the upset only had one senior on the field.
Rackler, who also plays cornerback for the Rams, felt the defense was the key against the Tigers, who will play this week at Las Vegas Robertson.
“I think we played well,” Rackler said. “We only allowed 90 rushing yards (96 yards on 40 carries), but we gave up that big play (an 83-yard touchdown reception by James McLeroy). There was a combination of a couple of things that didn’t go our way.”
Now, Rackler said the team wants to do everything possible to make those things go Portales’ way in 2006, and end the season with a state championship.
“It’s just going to make us work harder,” Rackler said of the adversity in 2005. “We have a lot of talent in our class and a good work ethic in our class. We definitely have the ability to get it done, and we’re going to do whatever it takes.”
It will take a few players stepping up on the line, Johnson said.
“We’re going to have to fill in the offensive line,” Johnson said, “but we have some very good candidates in line for that.”
And, most likely, the Rams and the rest of Class 3A will play in the 16-team format that eliminated only five teams after the regular season. Though there were some notable blowouts in the first week — Lovington’s 80-8 drubbing of Pojoaque and Hot Springs’ 72-0 win over Cuba, for example — Johnson felt the three close games (St. Michael’s defeating Cobre 22-15 and Socorro beating New Mexico Military Institute 28-20) were good evidence that having more teams wasn’t a bad idea.
“All of the top eight (seeds) moved on, but yet it gives a crop of teams an opportunity to get into the mix,” Johnson said. “(With) the old format, we don’t even have an opportunity to line up and show what caliber of football team we are.”