By Kevin Wilson
On Saturday, Glen Johnson got a chance to show that Portales’ senior class of 2002-03 belongs in the category of Class 3A’s elite.
Come August, Johnson hopes his remaining nucleus can prove that it belongs in that class as well.
Johnson and six Ram seniors from last year’s Class 3A runner up squad were at the third annual 3A North-South All-Star football game at Las Vegas, N.M. Les Long scored both South touchdowns in the 16-12 victory, making Johnson perfect in All-Star play.
“It was a great experience,” said Johnson, the head coach for the South All-Stars. “It was my first experience coaching an all-star game where you have an opportunity to work with the elite, the best of the best.”
Long was named the game’s most valuable player.
Players from five schools made up the South roster, including District 4-3A foes Lovington and Ruidoso. Johnson said that, “it wasn’t a matter of who was from where.
“We were all there trying to accomplish the same thing and that was beating the North in four quarters of football,” Johnson added.
Now that the All-Star festivities are over, the focus turns to the next Ram football squad. The nucleus of this season’s team is off to a good start thanks to work in a 7-on-7 football league in Clovis and a steady stream of voluntary practices.
However, Johnson wouldn’t even go so far as to call them practices.
“We’re been here to supervise them and work with them, but that’s something that’s been going on since the first of June,” Johnson said.
The 7-on-7 league will come full circle next weekend, when Clovis’ AYSO soccer fields will play host to a two-day tournament. Johnson doesn’t know when the Rams will play their first game, but he has heard that Artesia and Lovington are among the teams that have signed up for the tournament.
The league focuses on passing routes, as blocking and tackling are not allowed. The Rams are looking to become a more balanced team on offense with the departure of Long, who will play at Eastern New Mexico University.
The passing attack starts with junior quarterback Seth Clabaugh and can end with several receivers, with senior Manuel Sisneros as one of the main threats.
“When somebody’s stuffing the run,” Sisneros said, “here we come with the pass and we have a lot of receivers this year.”
Sisneros credits the 7-on-7 play as the biggest difference in improving both the passing offense and defense.
“We’ve all got our precise routes” Sisneros said. “It’s helping a lot in our man to man defense when we play Artesia and all they do is pass, it helps us out a lot.”
One of the main stereotypes associated with Johnson and Ram football was a belief that three things can happen when you throw the ball — completion, incompletion and interception — and two of them are bad.
“That’s something we’re definitely trying to get away from because when we drop back and throw the football, we’re thinking pass completions,” Johnson said. “We’re thinking touchdowns, we’re thinking of putting pressure on the secondary.”
Johnson and the Rams are hoping the passing attack helps them at next weekend’s tournament, and throughout the next few months. Sisneros said the main goal is not to be playing in July, but December. The first weekend of December is synonymous with the state title game, which saw Portales lose 26-22 to Ruidoso last year.
“Of course, we’re trying to win a state championship,” Sisneros said. “We got so close last year and that was really tough.”