By Kevin Wilson
If there was an opponent the Portales Rams needed reinforcements for, it would be the Denver City Mustangs.
So it’s fortunate that coming into Friday’s 7 p.m. game against Denver City (2-0), the second-ranked Rams are as close as they’ll be to a full squad all season.
Portales (3-0) gains back the services of juniors Chris Carter and Chris Hernandez and senior Mat Lujan. Carter and Hernandez were missing with injuries, and Lujan was held out while a residence issue was cleared up.
The Rams will need all of the help they can get against the Mustangs, who are fresh off of a bye week and have outscored Post and Dimmitt by a combined 60-8 score.
“They’re going to come out and play smash-mouth football and we have to stop them,” Hernandez said. “We have to be disciplined.”
Hernandez, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior linebacker, has been out virtually all season. He separated his shoulder on the second play of Portales’ scrimmage against Dexter, and he’s been wanting to get back in ever since.
“It was hard,” said Hernandez, who added that he’d never had a serious injury before. “I didn’t like sitting on the sidelines during the games.”
Portales is currently No. 2 in the Associated Press Class 3A poll. The Rams were No. 1 last week, but likely lost ground after winless Raton came a two-point conversion away from an upset on Friday.
The Rams host Denver City this season, following two trips to Mustang Stadium in 2001 and 2002. The Mustangs won last year’s contest 46-20, but led 46-6 entering the fourth quarter.
Ram coach Glen Johnson expects to see the Mustangs play just as well as they always have against Portales.
“Any time you venture across the state line and line up against their type of personnel,” Johnson said, “they’re definitely going to line up and be physical.”
Johnson doesn’t expect the contest to be a high-scoring game — instead, he is counting on a battle of field position. The special teams play, Johnson said, will be more important this week than in any of Portales’ previous three games.
Another big concern that Johnson has deals with turnovers. The Rams have averaged nearly five turnovers a game so far this season, and a similar effort would likely result in a laugher for the Mustangs.
Johnson said that Dimmitt turned over the ball three times against the Mustangs, and Denver City capitalized with 21 points off of them in the 39-8 victory.
“You can’t turn the football over against good teams,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to be disciplined enough to take care of it.”
Denver City coach Terry Summers could not be reached for comment.