By Dave Wagner
It’s been a while since the Portales High Rams have played a football game.
Since losing on Sept. 17 at Denver City, Texas, PHS has been in action for just two quarters — a weather-shortened 14-0 loss to Roswell Goddard the following week at Blackwater Draw.
Now, coming off an open date, the Rams return to Blackwater Draw for a 7 p.m. contest on Friday against Class 4A No. 1-ranked Artesia.
“We’re hoping the (break) has given us an opportunity to refocus on some basics of the game,” PHS coach Glenn Johnson said. “We’re ready to play a ballgame and see the improvement that has transpired through the last couple of weeks.”
Both teams come in having lost two in a row. While Portales (3-2) hasn’t won since beating Raton 28-9 on Sept. 10, the Bulldogs (4-2) have dropped back-to-back decisions to Carlsbad and Las Cruces, ranked fifth and third, respectively, in Class 5A.
“We feel like we’ve played two good football teams,” said veteran Artesia coach Cooper Henderson, an Artesia High and Eastern New Mexico University grad who began his coaching career as an assistant at Portales (1977-78). “I think you have to play good football teams to get better. We’re not really concerned about (the losses).”
The Rams, ranked third this week in Class 3A, lost at Artesia 47-0 last year. But in 2002, PHS played competitively at home before the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half.
“They’re a very well-coached football team,” Johnson said. “They’re a physical team, but probably their biggest asset is their speed and quickness.
“We’re excited about playing this game. It’s going to show us where we’re at.”
Henderson, who has led Artesia to eight state championships in his 16 seasons, said the Bulldogs like to open it up on offense and usually throw “about 60 percent of the time.”
He added that the Rams aren’t a team to be taken lightly.
“I think Portales has played some good football this year,” Henderson said. “It looks like they’re playing good defense, and they’ve shown the potential to put points on the board.”
Still, Johnson knows his contingent has its work cut out.
“We’re going to have to line up and play the best football game we’ve played to date,” he said. “We know we’re playing the No. 1-ranked team in 4A, and probably one of the best football teams in the state of New Mexico.
“We’ve got to go out and execute in all three phases of the game.”