LOVINGTON — The Portales Rams did themselves proud Friday night.
It wasn't enough to beat Lovington, but PHS made the Wildcats work hard for a 21-0 District 4-3A victory which sets up a battle for the district title next week at Ruidoso.
Lovington (3-5, 1-0 district), ranked third in 3A despite its record, has suffered losses to the top two teams in Class 4A and top-ranked St. Michael's in Class 3A. Still, the Wildcats found themselves in a scoreless tie with the Rams until senior Omar Arroyo returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown with under three minutes left in the third period.
"We kind of relaxed," Rams coach Jaime Ramirez said of Arroyo's return. "We lost a little bit of momentum there."
Senior running back Justin Bromley scored on runs of 2 and 50 yards in the final six minutes of the game to put it out of reach.
"It was a defensive battle," Ramirez said. "Our defense has played great all year long. And we didn't turn the ball over much tonight (once, on an interception)."
Lovington held the Rams to 106 total yards. Sophomore Matt Martinez, filling in for the ailing Paul Conrow at quarterback, went 10-of-19 for 56 yards.
"He did a good job of running the offense tonight," Ramirez said. "He's learning a lot on the run."
Ramirez said the Rams are simply a beat-up team on offense, with a number of players either out or playing hurt.
Portales has a bye next week, but will learn on Saturday if it gets a playoff berth.
"It's a waiting game now," Ramirez said.