Rams ready for season opener

Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

A pair of high school teams will step onto the field tonight at Greyhound Stadium looking for complete reversals of last season’s outcomes.

The Portales Rams will go up against the West Las Vegas Dons in their home season opener at 7 p.m.

“It means a lot to me,” starting quarterback Mario Salazar said about playing at home. “We want to start the season on the right track.”

Salazar started last season as the backup behind Tyler Rutherford, and now steps into a leadership role as one of the key returning members.

“I see myself more as a quiet leader,” Salazar said. “It’s always good to have a game at home. We want to get a win in front of our home crowd.”

The Rams wouldn’t mind a replay of the first three games of the 2004 campaign, which saw Portales go 3-0 and earn the state’s top ranking in Class 3A. What they don’t want to repeat is the rest of the season, which featured a seven-game skid.

“From last year, we learned not to play as individuals,” Eric Segovia, starting running back, said. The 6-0, 210-pound Segovia said he was moved from fullback to halfback because of Cruz Ontiveros’ quad injury. “We’re starting to come together and that helps us a lot.”

The Rams will also be without T.J. Garcia, sophomore offensive lineman and linebacker, due to sickness, according to Portales head coach Glenn Johnson.

The Rams defeated the Dons, 29-21, last year in West Las Vegas behind a game-clinching 57-yard TD run by Rutherford with a minute left in the game.

The Dons had a similar disappointment in 2004, going 2-8.

The Dons won the 2-3A title and at one point being ranked No. 1 in the state in 2003. West Las Vegas made it to the Class 3A state semifinals in 2003.

West Las Vegas head coach James Esquibel will lead his troops onto the field and Johnson will be expecting a lot of passing from the Dons’ offense. Esquibel is in his fourth year as coach for the Dons.

The Dons are led by Julio Montoya (5-foot-7 inches, 145 pounds) at quarterback along with Abe Encinias (6-1, 200 pounds). Johnson he said he saw Montoya take most of the reps during a scrimmage West Las Vegas had.

“I saw Montoya start during the scrimmage,” Johnson said. “No matter which quarterback is starting, we look to put the pressure on them. We want to force them to make reads and we’ll give them different looks.”

Johnson said the Rams came back this week and had a good weak of strengthening and conditioning after the scrimmage against Littlefield. Johnson was concerned with the Rams’ stamina during the scrimmage.

“We responded well to it (conditioning),” Johnson said. “Practice-wise, we have an understanding of how important it is to execute our offense and defense.”

West Las Vegas has offensive lineman between 5-6 and 5-10 in height and weighing between 200 to 230 pounds. They will block for running backs Andy Lucero and Julian Jaramillo.