By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
The Portales Ram defense was the team’s backbone last season in its run to the Class 3A state championship game, and despite losing several key contributors, it once again figures to be a team strength as the new season begins.
The Rams have just four players who played on the Rams defense last year, returning for the 2007 campaign — defensive lineman Jacob Brady, linebacker Ricky Lovato, cornerback Sammy Martinez and safety Brandon McAfee.
“It makes you where you really have to go back to the fundamentals and the basics,” McAfee said. “We really had to go back to scratch, we’ve got a couple of guys that are playing brand new positions for them.”
The Ram defense made great strides during the season last year, and both Correll and McAfee think they may have a leg up in starting this season.
“It’s all about the discipline and reading our keys and everything and I really think we got a lot better at that, so I was really pleased with their effort,” Correll said.
Portales scrimmaged Hatch Saturday in Artesia, and both Correll and assistant coach and defensive coordinator Mark McAfee like how the Ram defense handled Hatch’s vaunted aerial offense.
“We were a little rusty early,” Correll said. “But three or four plays into the scrimmage we settled down (and) we pretty much shut them down. I was really pleased with our aggressiveness.”
“We played pretty well,” McAfee said. “We busted a few coverages but I think for the most part, we knew where we were supposed to be. We did pick one and return it for six points — it’s been a long time since we’ve done that.”
For the second straight season, Portales opens their season against the defending Class 3A state champion Las Vegas-Robertson Cardinals. The game is 7 p.m. Friday at Greyhound Stadium.
“We scouted them, we’ve got their scrimmage film and we’re already preparing for them,” Correll said. “They’re going to be another good football team this year, so we’re trying to get ready for them.”
Following Saturday’s scrimmage, McAfee says his defense will have to change gears quickly before Friday night’s season opener.
“We’re picking it up good,” McAfee said. “We scrimmaged a team that threw it a whole lot, now we’re fixing to play a team that runs it a whole lot.”
“Defensively — we’ve got everything in, basically,” Correll said. “Right now, all we’re wanting to do is just polish it up, make sure we can stop the things that Robertson does well.”