By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
If the Portales Rams needed a wake-up call this early in the season, they certainly got one against Raton. Denver City’s coach, meanwhile, is hoping his young team doesn’t wake up.
The Class 3A Mustangs are 2-0 coming into tonight’s battle at Greyhound Stadium. Young or not, Portales expects a test a week after dropping a 28-8 game against Raton.
Denver City has traditionally gotten the better of the Rams regardless of the site, most recently a 36-7 rout last year when the Mustangs held Portales to 19 yards rushing.
Mustang coach Terry Summers doesn’t expect a repeat of that blowout, and said he’s surprised to see his team play well so early in the year.
“I’ve got a bunch of young players,” Summers said. “Last year’s JV is this year’s varsity. The Friday night lights haven’t bothered them yet. I’m ready for them to wake up any minute and make mistakes.”
When told of Summers’ evaluation, Portales coach Glenn Johnson just laughed and laid doubt on such sentiments.
“They’re a very good football team,” Johnson said. “The best we’ve seen to date.”
Johnson said his team would have to play a field position game to beat the Mustangs, which means good execution on offense and on special teams.
“We need to execute,” junior tackle Chris Christensen said. “We need to come out strong and play four quarters of football, play hard every down and don’t take any downs off.”
In respect to that philosophy, Johnson the Rams would probably need at least two first downs on each drive to create good scoring chances and keep the ball out of the hands of Mustang quarterback Rashaad Williams, “a very good athlete (and) a hard runner” from Johnson’s perspective.
“We can’t give up the big play,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t give up the easy touchdown.”
That’s exactly what killed the Rams last week, as all four Raton touchdowns came on plays of more than 50 yards, one a 64-yard interception return. Summers felt that interception and some of the five others Portales threw Friday should have just ended up as incompletions.
“You can tell (Portales junior Mario Salazar is) a good quarterback by the way he threw it,” Summers said. “It barely missed (the receiver most times), but the Raton kids were just standing right there.”
Although the coaches might disagree on evaluations at this point in the season, Johnson could agree with Summers’ sentiment that the ballgame could be determined by a few big mistakes.
“Usually this early in the season, it’s the team that doesn’t make those big mistakes,” Summers said. “It will be the same way in our game. I’m afraid any second now, we’re fixing to be the team to make them because we haven’t made them the first two games.”