By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
Portales High’s boys face an uphill struggle today in the first round of the Class 1A-3A state soccer tournament.
That said, the 11th-seeded Rams (8-10) have played reasonably well late in the season while their opponent, No. 6 Hope Christian, has been a bit up and down.
The teams meet at 4 p.m. today on the Huskies’ home pitch in Albuquerque. The winner advances to the APS soccer complex in Albuquerque, and will get third-seeded St. Michael’s in a 3:45 p.m. quarterfinal match on Thursday.
Meantime, the PHS girls (7-12) take the No. 9 seed into a 1 p.m. Saturday first-round contest at eighth-seeded Socorro (10-6-1).
The PHS boys come in having won three or their last four, including a 5-3 decision over Desert Academy on Saturday at Santa Fe.
The Huskies (10-10) have played a challenging schedule. Against District 2 foes, they have a 2-0 win over champion St. Mike’s, seeded third at state, but have lost three in a row, including a 3-0 setback at District 2 member Sandia Prep, which split this season with the Rams.
“They’re good; we’d better come ready to play,” Rams coach Nathan Dodge said. “I hope we play ‘up’ this match; sometimes we kind of play to the level of our opponent.”
Forward Devin Edwards is the Huskies’ leading scorer, but overall “they’re a young team,” Dodge said. “They’re definitely beatable, but they’re stinking good.”
Dodge pointed out that only senior forward Brandon Gomez and junior forward/midfielder Jose Barron had significant experience for the Rams prior to this season.
The Huskies eliminated the Rams in last year’s quarterfinals at Albuquerque. Two years ago, Portales reached the state final before losing to Bosque 3-0.
The PHS girls, meantime, are coming in off a weekend sweep at Monte del Sol and Desert Academy. They know little about the Lady Warriors, but are trying to make sure their own house is in order for Saturday’s 6:30 a.m. trip.
“We’ve been focusing on things we need to work on from last weekend,” assistant coach Amber Garcia said. “We definitely want to carry that momentum (from last weekend) through this week. I think we feel good about it.”
Saturday’s winner advances to a clash against top-seeded Hope Christian at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.