Undefeated squads set for clash

By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor

The year was 2003 and first-year Raton coach Brock Walton was seeking his first win. In an attempt for win No. 1, Walton went for two.

With four minutes left, his Tigers had scored a touchdown against the Rams to pull to 14-13. Walton called his final timeout and set up a two-point conversion attempt. It failed.
As Portales ran the clock out against a helpless Tiger team, Walton didn’t regret the decision. Upon Raton’s return to Portales, he still doesn’t regret the all-or-nothing choice.
“Not a bit,” Walton said. “We were just talking about it tonight. At that point in our season, we were 0-2 and we were playing a good team on the road.”

“We felt, before we made that decision, our confidence level had risen anyway. Playing as tough as we did, we had the confidence. I wasn’t sure our young team could win a game in overtime.

Raton is no longer in such a position, and comes into the 7 p.m. clash at Greyhound Stadium as an equal — at least as far as records are concerned — to the host Rams.

The Tigers and Rams come in at 2-0, and Ram coach Glenn Johnson is expecting that Portales faces much more of a challenge than it has in lopsided wins against West Las Vegas and Tularosa.

“They are a really improved football team from a year ago,” Johnson said. “They’re coming in 2-0. We’re going to have to line up and execute our best game to date.”

Portales has managed to show a balanced offense early in the season, though neither of their wins were necessarily that way.

Portales beat West Las Vegas 36-6 behind a 201-yard, five-touchdown effort from junior Eric Segovia and defeated Tularosa 26-6 behind a great throwing night from junior quarterback Mario Salazar.

“The first two game, we’ve shown we do have balance,” Johnson said. “We have lined up and ran the ball when want to. We’ve lined up and thrown the ball when we want to, not because we need to.”

It wasn’t a point lost on Walton, who admits he’s had a great deal of focus on this particular game.

“I was really impressed with their balance. Segovia had a great game against us last year. I’ve known since two-a-days that we were going to have to stop him.”

Walton also knows about Salazar, who came in during the second half of last year’s game at Raton, threw for two scores and helped Portales post 21 unanswered points in a 28-9 victory. He figures the best strategy to stop Segovia and Salazar is not to let them have the ball in the first place.

“We’ve got to keep the ball in our hands, keep Portales off the field,” Walton said. “We don’t necessarily need to score every time, though that would be great if we did. We just need to pick up a few first downs, keep our defense fresh.”

Walton was certain it wouldn’t be a blowout win for either team, and he was more certain it wouldn’t be a blowout win for his team.

Blowout, win or loss, Johnson said the focus is to be a better team each Friday than it was the previous Friday.
“We’ve got to have the attitude,” Johnson said, “that we aren’t satisfied until we’re able to play at the level we need to be to compete for a district championship.”