By Mickey Winfield: CNJ staff writer
LOVINGTON —The Lovington Wildcats (2-7, 2-0) took control of District 4-3A with a 21-point second half, beating the Portales Rams 27-20 Friday night at Wildcat Stadium.
The Wildcats (2-7, 2-0 district) quickly erased a six-point halftime deficit, turning three Portales turnovers into 21 points in just over three minutes in the third quarter, to seal the win.
“When you turn the ball over twice on kickoff returns, you’re not going to beat anybody, I don’t care who it is,” Rams head coach Andy Correll said. “We’ve done that kind of stuff all year, and we’ve got to grow up. We’ve got to get out of that, or our seasons going to be pretty short.”
The Ram defense never found an answer for Lovington senior running back Nathan Moore. Moore rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns on just 23 carries.
“We were trading punches back and forth,” first-year Lovington
head coach Jaime Quinones said. “That third quarter, we knew we needed to step it up, and we made a few adjustments. The kids just came out and played hard, we were able to get the momentum, picked up a couple of touchdowns and thats what you have to do in a big game.”
The Portales special teams made the first big play of the game, as senior Taylor Teague blocked a Lovington punt at mid-field, and recovered it in Wildcat territory, setting the Rams (3-5, 1-1) up for the first score of the game. Seven plays later, Portales junior quarterback Chris Mosier scampered up the middle for a two-yard touchdown.
Lovington responded on their second drive of the contest, as Moore took the option pitch, and ran 63-yards down the right sideline to bring the Wildcats to within one point, 7-6.
Portales added to their lead in the second quarter, as Mosier found plenty of room to run for a 19- yard gain, followed by a 17-yard pass to senior Cruz Ontieros to the 7-yard line. Junior Ricky Lovato, playing for an injured Eric Segovia, scored on the next play from 7 yards out, to give the Rams a 13-6 lead going into the half.
The third quarter was a nightmare for Portales. The Rams defense held the Wildcat offense to two 4-and-out drives, before junior running back Orlando Sanchez took the hand-off, and threw the ball down the field to a wide-open Austin Tramell for a 58-yard touchdown half-back option touchdown pass to tie the game 13-13.
The Rams lost a fumble on the kickoff, and Moore carried the ball off tackle for an 11-yard score two plays later, to give Lovington their first lead of the game, 20-13.
The Wildcats recovered a fumble on Portales’ first play after the
kick-off, and the Wildcats scored again, this time on a 44-yard run from Moore, to give the Wildcats a 27-13 lead.
“We stopped ourselves all night,” Correll said. “I wish I could
hit the easy button and it would be fixed, but we certainly aren’t
where we need to be right now.”
With Lovington trying to run the clock out, Ram senior Zach Vigil
picked up a Wildcat fumble and ran 56 yards the other way for a score.
However, Lovington recovered the onside kick attempt and ran out the rest of the clock.
Despite the loss, many Rams believe they could have beat the Wildcats.
“We’re a lot better than they are,” Mosier said. “We did give
them the game. We had so many turnovers the second half that we shouldn’t have had. We came into the game confident that we could beat them, and we gave it away in the second half.”