By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor
It’s obvious during a trip to the campus of Portales High School that a lot of renovation has happened, and plans for an expanded football weight room show that renovation is continuing.
The renovation is applying to more than just buildings, though, as the Ram defense is renovating itself to take an aggressive and rebound from back-to-back losing seasons.
“This year, our goal is to be the most aggressive defense in New Mexico,” said junior linebacker Kaleb Aguirre, one of many Rams who will play a part in Portales’ 3-4 defense.
Based on the Rams’ knowledge, they will be the only team in the four-member District 4-3A to employ the defense, which will focus primarily on blitz packages featuring Aguirre and other linebackers.
The defense will get its first test Friday in Littlefield, where the Rams will scrimmage against the Wildcats starting at 4 p.m. (MDT) with the freshman teams. The junior varsity scrimmage takes place at 5:30 p.m. and the varsity scrimmage takes place at 7:30 p.m.
The Rams wanted to make a few changes after finishing last season with a seven-game losing streak. The defense, head coach Glenn Johnson said, should help the Rams set the tone for each game and hopefully, the season.
“The main reason we’re going to the defense is that we want to dictate what the offense does as opposed to the offense dictating to us,” Johnson said.
Regardless of defense, Johnson said success always comes down to the same thing — execution.
“It’s going to be crucial that we take care of our individual responsibilities across the board,” Johnson said. “It’s a gap-control defense. As long as we take care of each gap responsibility and rush to the football, we’ll be OK.”
The Rams still have a few injury problems at the moment, including senior safety Josh Gonzales. Gonzales has been watching from the sidelines throughout the preseason, the result of a foot injury during the summer. He watched Tuesday’s practice with a specialized boot for support, which he thinks may be removed later this week. He is hoping to be back for Portales’ opener, set for Aug. 26 against West Las Vegas at Greyhound Stadium.
Gonzales said that while he’s been watching practices, he’s noticed a dedication from his teammates, even though many of them have injuries as well.
“They’re playing hard even if they’re hurt,” Gonzales said. “Cruz (Ontiveros) is hurt, but he’s still working as hard as he can.”