Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
ARTESIA — With a shorthanded squad and a road trip to face one of New Mexico’s top programs, a moral victory was all most expected for Portales. The Rams got that, while Artesia took an easy victory on the field.
With nine starters out with either injury or suspension, Portales was a heavy underdog against Class 4A’s top-ranked team and the 53-10 final score was indicative of that.
“With the current situation,” Johnson said, “to have as much success as we had is a big plus for our kids.”
Johnson did not comment further on the suspensions, which will be in effect for the Rams’ homecoming game Friday against Roswell at Greyhound Stadium.
Portales (2-4) had a few chances to put early scares into the host Bulldogs. After junior Taylor Teague recovered a fumble from Bulldog quarterback Denny Burnett inside the Artesia 5, the Rams settled for a field goal from Ezequil Soto.
The next Portales possession early in the second, which featured a successful 12-yard fake punt run by Soto, saw the Rams move the ball inside the Artesia 30.
The Bulldogs, leading 14-3 at that point, held firm in their territory and forced a turnover on downs. Artesia’s ensuing play was a 72-yard touchdown pass from Burnett to Kris Vierra.
The touchdown was a part of 40 unanswered points for Artesia, and the Rams didn’t get on the board again until Josh Gonzales caught a 23-yard pass up the middle from Mario Salazar with six minutes left.
However, Portales coach Glenn Johnson didn’t think that second-quarter sequence was the one that made the difference.
“I don’t know if there was ever a breaking point,” Johnson said. “The kids played as hard as they could play for four quarters and I couldn’t ask for any more than that.
“Lining up against a first-class program like that, you look to have as much success as you can. We lined up and did good things in all three phases of the game. We got some points on the board, forced three turnovers (and) special teams came up big.”
Despite the things a shorthanded Portales team did, it was all Artesia on the scoreboard and in the statistics. The Bulldogs held Portales to nine first-half yards and 65 for the game, including a minus-18 performance on the ground.
“Our defense played extremely well tonight,” Artesia coach Cooper Henderson said. “Definitely, their opportunities were really limited.”
On offense, the host Bulldogs racked up 386 of their 424 offensive yards through the air. Five different receivers caught touchdowns for Artesia, with an 80-yard Jeremy Duran catch capping off the scoring. Burnett threw four touchdowns as the starter, while Jones threw for three scores in backup duty.
Henderson was happy to get the victory to possibly get some momentum for Friday’s game against Clovis, but he was impressed with the effort Portales gave.
“I think they competed very hard,” Henderson said. “I know it’s a very difficult situation for a team to work through. They showed real spirit. I really think by district time, they’ll be ready to compete in district well.”
Artesia 53, Portales 10
Portales 3 0 0 7 — 10
Artesia 14 19 14 6 — 53
A — Denny Burnett 27 pass to Kris Vierra (Landry Jones kick), 8:23
P — Ezeqiel Soto 26 FG, 5:03.
A — Vierra 8 run (Jones kick), :48
A — Burnett 72 pass to Vierra (Jones kick), 7:07
A — Burnett 18 pass to Gentry Cauhape (kick failed), 4:53
A — Jones 54 pass to Scott Poe (run failed), 2:07
A — Burnett 35 pass to Jones (Jones kick), 7:13
A — Jones 21 pass to Poe (Jones kick), 2:53
P — Mario Salazar 23 pass to Josh Gonzales (Soto kick), 3:36
A — Jones 80 pass to Jeremy Duran (kick failed), :50
First downs 7 14
Rushes-yards 25-(-18) 15-38
Passing Yards 83 386
Total Yards 65 424
Comp-att-int 9-20-1 14-19-0
Punting 3-33.0 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-2
Penalties n/a n/a
Rushing — Portales, Ricky Lovato 9-3, Jesse Villa 1-1, Ezequil Soto 5-minus 3, Mario Salazar 10-minus 17. Artesia, Gentry Cauhape 9-47, Kris Vierra 1-8, Jeremy Duran 1-7, Denny Burnett 1-minus 7, Landry Jones 3-minus 17.
Passing — Portales, Salazar 9-20-1-83-1. Artesia, Burnett 8-11-0-207-4, Jones 6-8-0-179-3.
Receiving — Portales, Todd McBroom 3-25, Hunter Rackler 2-23, Josh Gonzales 1-23, Villa 1-13, Lovato 2-minus-1. Artesia, Vierra 3-103, Duran 2-92, Poe 3-86, Cauhape 3-58, Jones 2-39, Gabriel Sedillos 1-8.
Records — Portales 2-4, Artesia 6-1.