Rams look to keep focus against Eunice

By Kevin Wilson

The Rams are playing a Homecoming football game a Eunice team that they have outscored 123-13 over the last three meetings. But if the coaching staff gets what it wants, Portales will treat the visiting Eunice Cardinals like a defending state champion.
“At this point of the season, it doesn’t matter who we play,” Ram coach Glen Johnson said of the 7 p.m. Friday matchup at Greyhound Stadium. “It could be the Green Bay Packers, but we’ve got to line up and play football the way we know how.”
That’s the goal for the Rams this week, as they are coming off back-to-back losses. Johnson doesn’t think the Rams have yet strung together four quarters of solid football.
Eunice (2-3) has a pair of blowout wins (Cloudcroft and Hagerman) and three blowout losses (NMMI, Fort Sumner, Tularosa). None of Eunice’s games have had margins smaller than 20 points.
The Rams’ last game, a 33-18 loss at Goddard, started off looking like a blowout. Portales fell behind 27-0 just 15 minutes into the game and could not manage a comeback.
“We gave up big plays early, and that was the difference,” senior Mat Lujan said.
Lujan will be playing on both offense (running back) and defense (safety) this week, as Portales has holes to fill due to injuries. Junior linebacker Chris Hernandez re-injured his shoulder in practice on Wednesday, and senior center Ricky Rivas is being held out as coaches suspect he may have a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Junior Jacob Lopez will see most of the snaps in Rivas’ place. Lopez, who played in spots for Chris Jones last season, needed a few seconds to formulate his opinion on what the Rams need to do tonight.
“Let me quote (my thoughts) better — I’m in AP English,” Lopez joked, before adding, “We’ve got to play all three phases of the game and not take any opponent lightly; Eunice or anyone else.”
The matchup between the Class 3A Rams and Class 2A Cardinals has traditionally been a mismatch, even when Eunice won back-to-back state titles in 1999 and 2000. The Cardinals were 0-10 last season, but Johnson thinks they’re on the way back up.
“They don’t do a lot of fancy things, but they execute well,” Johnson said. “I think Coach (Gene) Strickland has done an excellent job of getting the players to play hard. They look to be a lot more competitive than we’ve seen.
“They’re not overly sized, but yet they run well, have good quickness, good team speed.”