By Dave Wagner
BLACKWATER DRAW — Ruidoso coach Ridge Bowden had the Warriors coming out throwing on their first series Friday night, figuring they needed work in that area.
After a three-and-out, Bowden put his team back in a running mode.
After sputtering early at times, the Warriors rode 200 yards and four touchdowns on the ground from junior running back Tedd Sowell to a 45-13 District 4-3A win over Portales High at Blackwater Draw, all but eliminating the Rams (3-6, 0-2 district) from postseason consideration.
Ruidoso (6-3, 1-1) kept itself in playoff contention behind a 430-yard assault against a banged-up Rams defense, including 332 yards on the ground. Portales (3-6, 0-2) hung close until a 74-yard touchdown run by Sowell broke open a 7-0 game with 3:37 left in the half.
“That was the turning point in the ballgame,” PHS coach Glenn Johnson said. “The thing we didn’t want to do was to give up big plays.”
Ruidoso, though, controlled the ball much of the game, running twice as many plays from scrimmage as the Rams (66-33). Counting Sowell’s long run, which came on the first play after a Rams punt, the Warriors put together four scoring drives of more than 60 yards.
“It wasn’t an error-free game, but we were well-focused and prepared to play tonight,” Bowden said. “Now we’ve just got to do it again next week at (district-leading New Mexico Military).”
Near the end, with the game out of reach, the Warriors went back to their passing game. Senior quarterback Marcus Williams finished 7-of-16 for 98 yards and a touchdown.
“We wanted to attempt to throw the ball,” Bowden said. “That’s a part of the game we haven’t perfected yet.
“We want people to have to defend both the run and the pass.”
Portales did make a game of it for a time after falling behind 28-0, getting two touchdown passes from senior Tyler Rutherford to close to 15 points before the Warriors put the game out of reach on Sowell’s 2-yard run with 9:43 left, capping a seven-play, 64-yard march.
The Rams are a banged-up team going with young, inexperienced players in some positions due to injuries and the like. On top of that, the ball hasn’t bounced their way much this season.
For example, two Ruidoso squib kicks on kickoffs bounced away from PHS return man Chris Carter, and he was forced to recover both inside the 10-yard-line.
“Where we are right now, as young and undersized as we are, we’ve got to execute flawlessly (to be successful),” Johnson said. “I’ve never been through a season where injuries have played as big a part as they have this year — even with guys who are playing.”
Bowden, on the other hand, said his team needed the bounce-back after losing at home to Lovington 33-13 in its first district outing.
“If there was ever a time for a loss that was it, because we still have an opportunity for a playoff (appearance),” he said. “Now we just have to do it.”
Ruidoso 45, Portales 13
Ruidoso 7 14 7 17 — 45
Portales 0 0 7 6 — 13
R — Todd Sowell 10-yard run (William Wilson kick), 4:36
R — Sowell 74-yard run (pass failed), 3:37
R — Kyle Mails 8-yard pass from Marcus Williams (Sowell run), 1:20
R — Michael Sanchez 4-yard run (Wilson kick), 5:23
P — Chris Carter 26-yard pass from Tyler Rutherford (Mark Vanniewkoop kick), 2:25
P — Eli Escalante 9-yard pass from Rutherford (kick blocked), 11:53
R — Sowell 2-yard run (Wilson kick), 9:43
R — Wilson 22-yard FG, 3:15
R — Sowell 22-yard run (Wilson kick), 2:10
First downs 21 7
Rushes-yards 50-332 26-93
Passing yards 98 88
Total yards 430 181
Comp-att-int 7-16-1 7-24-3
Punting 1-41.0 7-30.4
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-0
Penalties-yards 2-15 7-48
RUSHING — Ruidoso, Sowell 20-200, Joshua Pior 7-50, Sanchez 14-50, Williams 5-18, Tyler Adams 2-10, Elisha Hedin 1-4, Garrett Griffin 1-0. Portales, Rutherford 14-67, Eric Segovia 4-17, Carter 7-9, Mario Salazar 1-0.
PASSING — Ruidoso, Williams 7-16-1-98. Portales, Rutherford 7-21-2-88, Salazar 0-3-1-0.
RECEIVING — Ruidoso, Hedin 3-40, Brad Lacy 2-35, Sanchez 1-15, Mails 1-8. Portales, Carter 2-31, Salazar 2-30, Segovia 2-18, Escalante 1-9.