By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
As the cold air begins to arrive in eastern New Mexico, so does the Portales Rams’ final pre-district opponent.
The Rams host the Roswell High Coyotes Friday night at Greyhound Stadium (7 p.m.) to finish out their pre-district lineup.
Many New Mexico high school football coaches schedule a weak pre-district schedule to boost stature when it comes time for the seeding of the 12-team state playoff brackets, while others schedule the best teams they can find, even if it means a poor record heading into their district games, in order to prepare for their district opponents.
Portales head coach Andy Correll believes his team falls in the second category.
“We’re definitely wanting to work toward a district championship. Who we play before district prepares us for our district games. That’s our philosophy,” Correll said. “Right now, we’re just more interested in winning a district championship and wherever they put us playoff-wise, we’ll be ready to go,” Correll said.
“That’s our focus,” Ram assistant coach and defensive coordinator Mark McAfee said. “Every week we want to get better and better and be ready for district.”
Last year, despite claiming one of only four district championships, the Rams were seeded seventh in the state tournament, before advancing to the Class 3A state championship game.
“After last year, I don’t put much into (playing for a seed) anymore,” Correll said. “They might look at our pre-district schedule, but I don’t buy into that too much. It’s really getting to where teams are dropping down — they’re not playing a tough schedule so that maybe they will get a higher seed.”
McAfee figures the Rams are better off for scheduling the 4A Coyotes, since bigger teams tend to magnify weaknesses. The result, McAfee said, is coaches and players have to respond and improve.
The Rams are one game and eight days away from starting their defense of their 2006 District 4-3A championship when they travel to the New Mexico Military Institute Oct. 26.
Correll believes 4-3A is one of the toughest groups in the state — regardless of class.
“Traditionally our district has been the toughest one (in the state). State champions (have) come out of our district for quite a few years,” Correll said. “Three of our teams are as good as anybody in the state.”
The Rams then travel into the mountains to play the Ruidoso Warriors before returning home for their district finale against the Lovington Wildcats.
“I kind of see that as the district championship,” Correll said. “Of course we’ve got to take care of NMMI and Ruidoso, but I really see that (Lovington) game coming down to the district championship.”