By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — There’s no question that the Portales Rams are going to be home next weekend. The question is whether or not they’ll be playing a football game or be done for the season.
Due to playoff histories, third-seeded Las Vegas Robertson and 14th-seeded Shiprock owe Portales a game, guaranteeing homefield advantage should Portales reach the second round of the Class 3A football playoffs.
However, there is the not-so-small task of advancing beyond the first round, and a road game at sixth-seeded Raton is the primary obstacle.
A win at Raton would almost be a fitting way for Portales (2-8) to snap its eight-game losing streak, since Raton started the streak. The Tigers took a 28-8 win earlier this season at Greyhound Stadium, but Raton coach Brock Walton speaks almost as if 11th-seeded Portales is the favorite tonight at Tiger Stadium.
“We weren’t too ecstatic about having to play Portales in the first round,” Walton said. “We know they’re a proud team with lots of tradition and they’ll put up everything they can without going down.”
The Portales coaching staff ended Thursday’s practice by talking about how the playoffs were a special opportunity and a different type of game.
It’s not a message that’s fallen on deaf ears, junior linebacker Taylor Teague said.
“It’s pretty intense,” Teague said of the week’s practices. “Everything’s more intense and we’re trying to get extra stuff into practices.”
Walton doesn’t expect a similar game to the third week of the season, where the Tigers picked off six Portales passes, scored a defensive touchdown early in the game and got three touchdowns from Jacob Roper — a 63-yard run in the first and a 55-yard reception and a 29-yard run in the fourth.
“I think it was a reasonably close game all the way through,” Walton said. “I thought the score was not indicative of the game because we scored some cheap ones at the end.
“Our offensive touchdowns all came on big plays. It’s not like we drove the football to beat them.”
Stopping the big play is a concern for Portales coach Glenn Johnson.
“The key to the ballgame is going to be controlling the tempo,” Johnson said. “You line up against good football teams, you can’t spot them (points) and look to play catch-up ball.”
Class 3A’s other Friday night game pits 10th-seeded Grants against seventh-seeded Bloomfield. Shiprock travels to Robertson for a 1 p.m. Saturday game.