By Dave Wagner
BLACKWATER DRAW — Any resemblance to the season-opening meeting between the Las Vegas Robertson and Portales High football teams was purely coincidental.
Senior running back James Gonzales III and junior running back Dominic Lucero combined for 399 yards rushing and all five touchdowns as the Cardinals rolled to a 36-0 triumph on Friday night in a Class 3A first-round playoff game at Greyhound Stadium.
The Cardinals (6-5) will play top-seeded St. Michael’s (10-0) next week in Santa Fe in a quarterfinal game, and coach Leroy Gonzales said his squad has a chance to do something unusual — avenge four of its losses, if the schedule plays out the right way.
After avenging its 14-6 loss at Greyhound Stadium, the Cardinals hope to get another one next week against St. Mike’s, which routed them 50-0 in mid-September, and they could also eventually see Taos and/or Ruidoso.
Gonzalez said injuries have plagued his team most of the season.
“This is the first week we’ve had everybody back,” he said. “We’ve had six or seven injuries that have hurt us (during the season). This is the way we were supposed to look the whole year.”
Gonzales finished with 237 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries while Lucero, who missed the first meeting, added 162 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
The Rams (6-5) were already struggling to stay in contention when sophomore running back Bronte Staugaard went down with a concussion midway through the second quarter after a hard hit. Robertson led just 14-0 at halftime, but Gonzales broke off a 65-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter and Lucero also scored on a first-play, 40-yard run late in the period.
“It was a physical game,” Rams coach Jamie Ramirez said. “What can you say when you lose like we did?
“We were in the ballgame for the first half. Then the second half they score on the first play on a run straight up the middle.”
Portales, outgained 462-143 for the game, had a couple of chances to score. A a pass from Daniel Sanchez fell off the fingertips of a wide-open Caleb Burciaga behind the defense late in the first half, and an 11-play drive on the Rams’ first possession of the second half reached the Robertson 3 before a 12-yard sack of Sanchez pushed the ball out near the 20.
The teams have met six times in three years, with Robertson winning five, and the Cardinals have knocked PHS out of the playoffs in the first round each time.
“They did a good job up front all night long,” Ramirez said of the Cardinals. “They really controlled the line of scrimmage.”
Staugaard finished with 28 yards on nine carries. Meantime, senior wide receiver Jarrett Faust caught seven passes for 73 yards.
The Rams showed significant improvement over last year’s 2-8 mark, but Ramirez said he needed some time to reflect on the season.
“When you lose a playoff game at home like we did, it’s tough,” he said. “When I get some time to think about it , I’m sure I’ll feel pleased with our progress.”