By Dave Wagner
BLACKWATER DRAW — Early on, the Tularosa Wildcats had Portales High on its heels.
But they weren’t able to deliver a knockout punch, and Rams senior quarterback Tyler Rutherford took over in the second half to lead Portales to a 33-12 win on Friday night at Greyhound Stadium.
Rutherford ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, and completed 9-of-20 passes for 126 yards and a score. He came out late in the game with a bruised hip after getting blindsided by a Wildcats defender, but he and Rams coach Glenn Johnson said they expect him to be ready for next week’s game at Raton.
With PHS (2-0) struggling for most of the first two periods, Rutherford scrambled 27 yards to the Tularosa 6 on a fourth-and-7 play, setting up a tying touchdown by sophomore fullback Eric Segovia late in the half.
Rutherford then broke a 45-yard run on the first play of the third quarter, leading to his 7-yard touchdown run. After the Wildcats (0-2) tied it on a 5-yard run by Robert Abercrombie, Rutherford scrambled away from pressure on the third play following the kickoff to score on a 67-yard run.
“I kind of got over my nerves,” Rutherford said. “We changed our offense a little bit at halftime. I started stepping up in the pocket more and making the throws.”
Segovia got a second touchdown on a 19-yard swing pass from Rutherford early in the fourth quarter. Senior running back Chris Carter, quiet most of the night, capped the scoring on a 16-yard run with 2:51 left.
“We knew we had to line up and stop (Tularosa’s) run, and that didn’t quite happen in the first half,” Johnson said. “I was very pleased with the way our kids reacted in the second half, especially in the third quarter, coming out and taking control of the ballgame.”
Early on, though, it was the Wildcats who controlled play. They took the opening kickoff and grabbed the lead in seven plays, including four consecutive first-down runs, with Abercrombie going around the right side to score from four yards out.
After forcing a punt, Tularosa put together an 11-play drive that eventually died out. That was probably the Wildcats’ chance to take control.
“Their physical size was a big factor,” Tularosa coach David Lynn said. “We’re just not that big. And we didn’t tackle very well tonight.
“Our depth catches up with us. But I thought Portales played a whole lot better than they did (in a season-opening win at West Las Vegas).”
Tularosa punished the Rams’ defense for 221 yards on the ground, with running back Matt Chavez, Abercrombie and quarterback Salomon Baca all over 50 yards.
“They brought it out of us,” Rutherford said. “All week they’d been telling us that they were going to come out and hit us in the mouth.”
Portales finished with a 351-235 margin in total offense, even though Carter didn’t get out of negative rushing yardage until his late TD run.
Carter did have a spectacular 75-yard interception return for a touchdown nullified late in the first half by a pass interference penalty.
“When you have an offensive weapon like Chris Carter, people are going to try to stop him,” Johnson said. “Like we said going in, that’s where others have to step up.”
Lynn said the Wildcats were determined to contain Carter.
“We didn’t want No. 32 (Carter) to beat us,” he said. “But they tricked us — No. 7 (Rutherford) beat us.
“We’re going to regroup. We’ve got a tough schedule, but hopefully by the time we start district play we’ll be a better team.”
Portales 33, Tularosa 12
Tularosa 6 0 6 0 — 12
Portales 0 6 13 14 — 33
T — Robert Abercrombie 4-yard run (kick failed), 9:10
P — Eric Segovia 6-yard run (kick failed), 1:29
P — Tyler Rutherford 7-yard run (pass failed), 10:02
T — Abercrombie 5-yard run (run failed), 6:11
P — Rutherford 68-yard run (Rutherford kick), 4:30
P — Segovia 19-yard pass from Rutherford (Daniel Aranda pass from Chris Carter), 9:11
P — Carter 16-yard run (kick failed), 2:51
First downs 17 11
Rushes-yards 48-221 30-225
Passing yards 14 126
Total yards 235 351
Comp-att-int 2-11-2 9-20-0
Punting 5-24.0 4-30.5
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties 3-35 9-61
RUSHING — Tularosa, Matt Chavez 12-73, Abercrombie 18-65, Salomon Baca 12-54, Abraham Ochoa 4-17, David Bartram 2-12. Portales, Rutherford 14-186, Segovia 8-30, Carter 6-7, Mario Salazar 1-4, team 1-minus 2.
PASSING — Tularosa, Baca 2-9-1-14, Bartran 0-1-0-0, Abercrombie 0-1-1-0. Portales, Rutherford 9-20-0-126.
RECEIVING — Tularosa, Chavez 1-13, Abercrombie 1-1. Portales, Cruz Ontiveros 4-32, Carter 2-20, Salazar 1-41, Segovia 1-19, Aranda 1-14.