Ram football pride returns in a big way

By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a three-part series looking at the top local sports stories in 2006.

The Elida Lady Tigers volleyball team had a season to remember, the Portales school board approved a new sports program and the Portales Ram football team opened eyes all around the state, in the 2006 fall sports season.

Under head coach Darrell Chenault, the Elida volleyball team seemed unbeatable, winning 23 consecutive matches in marching straight through the Class 1A playoffs. But the Fort Sumner Vixens (a team Elida beat three times in the season) swept the Elida girls in a very competitive Class 1A state championship match in early November (25-23, 25-23, 25-18).

The Lady Tigers still achieved a District 3-1A championship and a perfect regular and district season. Elida also landed four girls on the All-District 3-1A volleyball first team. Seniors Lindsey Ward and Alicia Cross-Smith made the list, as did junior Janice Taylor and sophomore Lindsey Smith. Sophomore Nicole Jasso made the Honorable Mention list.

“We just never give up, we always try hard,” Cross-Smith said during the District 3-1A tournament. “We shake off the last point, and we never give up. We’re a very strong team, and we really don’t like to give up.”

After months of research and soccer moms and dads campaigning for a Portales High School soccer program, the school board met in mid-November and unanimously approved development of a boys and girls soccer program at PHS. Portales teenagers will begin taking penalty kicks on the pitch in the 2007-2008 school year, and many local parents attended the meeting voicing their approval.

“It’s really exciting for the kids who have been working since they were little bitty to be able to continue on (playing soccer), where they didn’t have the option before,” Katie Hammack, the mother of two soccer playing girls said. “They kind of do (have the option of playing soccer) now, and can participate in school which helps a bunch.”

Portales Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler said there is much to be done, and estimated the start-up cost of the program at about $40,000.

“There’s a lot of things that revolve around (starting the program),” Fowler said. “We want to make sure that this wasn’t just jumped into without really thinking through it, and we feel like we have done that.”

After a 2-9 season a year ago, not many could have imagined a state championship appearance by the 2006 Portales Rams football team under first-year coach Andy Correll. But that’s exactly what happened. Add into the mix a schedule that included a season opener against the defending Class 3A state champion Las Vegas Robertson Cardinals, two high-powered Texas teams and games against 4A powers Goddard and Roswell High, and nobody gave the Rams a chance. But they made the playoffs, and beat third-seeded Bloomfield on the road in the 3A quarterfinals. Then they beat second-seeded St. Mike’s on the road in the semifinals before losing the state championship game at Greyhound Stadium to Las Vegas Robertson 28-6.

“We met the expectations the coaches set for us,” junior quarterback Chris Mosier said. “We had a lot of guys out there that wanted to be better.”