By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
With everything else surrounding tonight’s game against Artesia, it would seem that the only advantage the visiting Portales Rams have is the benefit of a bye week.
The other odds seem to all be in the favor of the Class 4A Bulldogs. Artesia (5-1) is at home and has outscored the Rams 132 -20 over the last three matchups.
A 34-33 loss against Class 5A Las Cruces Friday did nothing to dissuade voters from making the Bulldogs a unanimous top pick in the Associated Press Class 4A poll.
Portales (2-3), meanwhile, went into last week’s open date with a three-game losing streak and is ranked eighth in the AP’s Class 3A poll.
The laundry list of advantages for Artesia includes one more item — Portales will be without at least nine starters due to a concussion injury for running back Eric Segovia and unspecified disciplinary actions for others.
Portales coach Glenn Johnson would not comment on the suspensions, which will also be in effect for next week’s homecoming game against Roswell. Instead, he spoke of the challenges against an Artesia team that does “everything” well.
“On the offensive side of the ball, they do a great job executing,” Johnson said. “Defensively, that’s where they put all their speed. They do an excellent job of running to the football. They’ve just a very agressive football team. On special teams, they do a lot of things that make you concentrate on that aspect of the game.”
Johnson said the Rams have goals to improve their offensive yards from a 200-yard output at Goddard and try to contain Artesia’s offense. To that end, Johnson thinks special teams will come into play.
“We’re looking to possibly make some things happen (on special teams),” Johnson said. “Because of what they’re able to do with the ball offensively, we’re going to try to make them work for field positioning.”
Henderson said that the Bulldogs usually try to concentrate on themselves instead of their opponents, but noted that Portales is a tough matchup because of the different offensives it can run.
“Defensively, they have some size,” Henderson said. “They’re a pretty typical Portales team. Their secondary moves well, their kicking game is pretty sound.”
When told of the situation with missing starters, Henderson did not want to comment other than to express disappointment that the teams would not be able to face off at full strength.
Johnson is trying to view the situation as a positive — if not for tonight’s game, then for later down the road.
“Those guys (reserve players) are looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a good situation for us down the road,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take everybody contributing and this will be a great opportunity to evaluate these guys and for those guys to gets some good playing time in.”