By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
BLACKWATER DRAW — As the clock began to run out on the Portales football team’s chances of winning its first state title in 18 years Saturday, their principal, Melvin Nusser, knew there was still some fight left in the team.
As the former coach turned-principal spoke, the Rams proved him right with a long run from junior quarterback Chris Mosier followed by a completion to sophomore Michael Trujillo to their opponent’s 5-yard line with 13 seconds left.
“There you go,” Nusser said. “They never quit.”
The drive was stalled due to a penalty, however, and the Las Vegas Robertson Cardinals went on to win the game 28-6, collecting their second state title in two years.
But parents and fans of the Rams tipped their hats to the Portales team’s ability to overcome long odds just to make it to the championship game.
“I think it was evident today that they just played their guts out,” Nusser said. “They got better every game. Bad things happened and they overcame them. As far as we’re concerned they’re champions.”
Like a microcosm of the Rams season, Saturday’s championship started with the team in bad field position and all the breaks going to the other side.
After Robertson sophomore Nathan Vigil hauled in a 18-yard touchdown pass to give the Cardinals a 21-0 lead just before the half, climbing out of the hole looked impossible for the Rams.
Mosier gave the Rams a spark early in the third quarter, though, with a 69-yard run, followed immediately by an Eric Segovia 1-yard touchdown run. The second half was to be better for the Rams but the clock was unforgiving and the Cardinals unbowing.
Seniors Ontiveros said Segovia both credited teamwork and the effort put in by everyone for the Rams’ successful run in the post season.
“It’s been a fun year,” said Ontiveros. “We had a lot of opportunities (today). I just wish we could have made more of them.”
Segovia, who experienced the death of his grandfather earlier in the day, said the teamwork and commitment from not just the seniors, but the underclassmen as well, lifted the team midway through its season.
“We’ve improved a lot,’ Segovia said. “In two-a-days the coaches told us we were good, but we knew we were lousy. We knew we had to step up and that’s how we turned it around midseason. It was a team effort — a family effort.”
First-year Ram head coach Andy Correll’s words in the team huddle after the trophy presentation were simple.
“You underclassmen, let this burn a little bit. When you come back next year it will make you better,” Correll said. “You seniors — great job!”
The (7-6) Ram team, which went into the state playoffs as the seventh seed, astounded the New Mexico prep football world by beating the second and third seeds, St. Michael’s and Bloomfield, on the road in close-fought battles.
“I guess in ways we got done what we set out to accomplish,” Ram senior Hunter Rackler said. “Because we proved people wrong and we worked to rebuild the program. But it hurts so bad, because the seniors really wanted it.”
A throng of Ram parents passed out hugs on the field following the trophy presentation.
“They came a long way,” parent Marla Segovia said. “This is the greatest group of kids … character, strength, integrity. There couldn’t have been a better group to bring it.”