By Dave Wagner
When the Ruidoso Warriors visit Portales High on Friday night, the stakes won’t be as high as the last time the teams met at Blackwater Draw.
There will still be plenty on the line, though. Both will be fighting for their playoff lives in a District 4-3A clash set for 7 p.m.
Ruidoso’s last trip to Greyhound Stadium came in the 2002 Class 3A state championship game. Trailing by 10 points and out of timeouts with three minutes left, the Warriors rallied for a 26-22 victory.
“We have good memories of that, but it’s a different time now,” third-year Ruidoso coach Rich Bowden said. “Both teams have a lot of different personnel now.”
Each struggled at home in last week’s district openers, the Warriors (5-3) losing to Lovington 33-13 while the Rams (3-5) were beaten by New Mexico Military 54-27.
Bowden said his team was tied until giving up a touchdown right before halftime and another shortly after play resumed.
Meantime, PHS coach Glenn Johnson hopes his team is starting to get healthier after a rash of injuries which, along with a challenging schedule, has contributed to a five-game losing streak.
“When you’re playing as ‘young’ as we are, playing in a district like this makes it tough,” Johnson said. “Coach Bowden has done an excellent job with this program. They execute well offensively; they’ll put pressure on you with their wishbone and ‘spread-bone’ offense.”
Johnson said the Rams will be without senior two-way tackle Dustin Williamson, who dislocated a kneecap against NMMI. Johnson said he hopes Williamson might be able to play in next week’s regular-season finale at Lovington.
Despite the Rams’ struggles, Bowden anticipates a competitive game.
“I think it’s very balanced between the two teams,” he said. “They’ve had some injuries just as we have.
“(PHS senior) Chris Carter is as fine an athlete as we’ve seen this year; he’s going to make a difference. And the same thing for the quarterback (senior Tyler Rutherford).”
Both players have been nicked up the past few games, but Johnson said they are doing better. Carter has played QB for most of the last two games after Rutherford sustained a separated shoulder, but Johnson said he wasn’t sure which way he’d go this week.
“It’s about time we get a few breaks,” he said of the Rams’ recent struggles. “Our kids have been working hard and doing what’s asked of them. We need some good things to happen for us.”
It would be possible, but not likely, for either team to make the playoffs with a 1-2 district record in a three-way tiebreaker for second place.
“We’ve got to win two games to get in,” Johnson said. “That’s the way we’re looking at it.”
Ruidoso at Portales
7 p.m. Friday
At Blackwater Draw
Records: Ruidoso 5-3 (0-1 District 4-3A), Portales 3-5 (0-1)/
Coaches: Rich Bowden, 3rd year; Portales, Glenn Johnson, 7th year.
Radio: KSEL-AM 1490.
Last week: The Warriors lost at home to Lovington 33-13. The Rams were beaten at home by New Mexico Military 54-27.
Last meeting: 2003, the Rams turned the ball over six times and lost at Ruidoso 31-14.
Ruidoso players to watch: Marcus Williams, Sr. QB, 6-2, 210; Teddy Sowell, Jr. LB, 6-0, 175; Michael Sanchez, Jr. RB, 5-5, 146; Jasper Riddle, Sr. LB, 5-11, 192; Eddie Gutierrez, Sr. LB, 6-1, 171; Elisha Hedin, Sr. WR-CB, 5-11, 157.