By Mickey Winfield: CNJ staff writer
On the heels of a disappointing loss at Lovington, and with one game left on their district schedule, the Portales Rams (3-5) view tonight’s game against the New Mexico Military Institute Colts (7 p.m., Greyhound Stadium) as a must-win, to clinch a spot in the New Mexico Class 3A football playoffs.
A Portales win against NMMI would give the Rams the District 4-3A runner-up spot, and with it, an automatic berth in the playoffs. A loss, however, and the Portales boys would likely have to hope for one of the four wild-cards awarded.
“We want to be one of those that earns their way in (to the playoffs),” Portales head coach Andy Correll said. “And with the strength of schedule that we’ve played this year, there’s no way of telling what would happen.”
Entering the last week of a tough schedule that included the defending state champion Las Vegas Robertson Cardinals, Texas powers Muleshoe and Slaton, Class 4A powers Goddard and Roswell High, and district rival Lovington, Correll believes his guys should get into the playoffs, but they don’t want to leave things to chance.
“We’re wanting to take any doubt out of anybody’s seeding, we just want to take care of business and assure us a playoff spot,” Correll said.
The Colts (0-8) have yet to win a game this season, are not likely to make the playoffs, and if you ask Correll, that makes them dangerous.
“These type of teams scare me,” Correll said. “They’ve got nothing more to lose, they’ve played some quality football teams, and they’re not a bad team. We’ve got to go out and take care of business, and make sure we’re focussed on what we have to do, or a team like NMMI could sneak up and bite us, and that scares me more than anything right now.”
With their winless 0-8 record, NMMI head coach Dwight Burns just wants to see his kids compete, and get a picture of what he’ll have to work with next year.
“Well, having a rough season is kind of an understatement,” Burns said. “It’s been a disappointing season, but for what they have to offer, what they have to give back to the program, I’m not disappointed in our kids at all.”
NMMI has been out-scored 29-299 in their first seven losses, and that may be just what the doctor ordered for a Ram team that suffered a devastating loss last week at Lovington. In that game Portales give up three turnovers leading to 21-points in a third quarter three-minute span erasing a Portales half-time lead and handing the district lead to the Wildcats.
“That loss hurt us, and the guys have come forth and said that,” Correll said. “They’ve really been down a little bit about that loss, because they know they had all the opportunities, we’re playing well the first half, and then to absolutely hand (Lovington)the game. So I think we’ve had a new focus this week, and it’s a focus on, instead of playing not to lose, they want to play to win.”
Across the field, Burns is worried about the Ram defense.
“Portales’ strong suit is not their offense,” Burns said. “It’s their defense, and that’s my biggest concern.”
Tonight’s game will be the Rams second straight without leading rusher Eric Segovia. Segovia will find out today when he’ll be able to play again, most likely the first or second week of the playoffs. Segovia dislocated his shoulder in the second quarter of the Rams district-opening win, Oct. 21 against Ruidoso. Correll hopes he’ll be released to practice as early as Monday.
“He was pretty put out,” Correll said. “Especially last week because he wanted to play against Lovington. He said he hasn’t got a chance at them since his sophomore year and he really wanted a shot at them, and I felt for him, but like I told him, lets get him healthy and get in the playoffs and see what happens from there.”