By Mickey Winfield
They ran their way to the District 4-3A championship and right on through the Class 3A playoffs. Now the Portales Rams will take a run at the state championship on Saturday afternoon against Las Vegas Robertson.
“I think right now, we have a lot of confidence that we can run it at anybody,” Rams’ senior running back Cruz Ontiveros said after practice on Wednesday. “We’ve opened up the playbook and we’re running leads to the outside. That’s how we plan to attack them.”
Junior quarterback Chris Mosier and senior running backs Eric Segovia and Ontiveros are the work-horse ball carriers on a team that runs the ball nearly 90 percent of the time.
“They’ve really done everything I’ve expected them to do, and that’s grind it out, not having turnovers,” said Portales’ first-year coach Andy Correll. “We haven’t had any turnovers the last two games, and that’s been big for us … (Mosier, Segovia and Cruz) have been where we need them to be, and teams have to respect their abilities.”
Despite being a quarterback in his playing days, Correll came into this season determined to win consistently by running the ball. He said his players bought into the system right away.
“You would think I’d want to throw it all the time, but if you can run it, you can do a lot of things,” Correll said. “And I think the reason that we are (in the state championship game) is because we can run the football. If we’re able to run the football the way we have the last two weeks, then I think we’re going to be pretty tough to beat.”
But Correll cautions the Robertson defense is well suited for stopping the Rams’ ground game.
“They’re tough,” Correll said. “They’ve got some big defensive ends, they’ve got a good linebacking corps, they only give up about 14 points a game. We’ve got to do some things, and do them well to compete against them, and that’s the whole key. We’re going to try to be consistent against them moving the chains, and that’s our big focus. We want to keep their offense off the field as much as possible.”
That’s what Portales was able to do in its 25-20 semifinal win against St. Mike’s in Santa Fe on Saturday. With a tight game in the fourth quarter the Rams turned to their running game. After a 15-play drive gave them a lead, Portales ended the contest with a 12-play, 71-yard drive capped by Eric Segovia’s 2-yard touchdown run. All 12 plays on the game-winning drive were runs.
“Teams are going to have to prove that they can stop our run, and nobody has been able to do that yet,” Correll said.