By Dave Wagner
TEXICO — The Texico Wolverines weren’t going to let Portales sophomore running back Bronte Staugaard get going after his impressive debut last week.
Instead, the Rams went to the air, with senior quarterback Daniel Sanchez throwing 41 times and the PHS defense holding up down the stretch for a 13-7 victory on Friday night.
Staugaard, coming off a 127-yard performance in last week’s opening win over Las Vegas Robertson, rarely if ever got loose against the Wolverines (0-2). He finished with just 25 yards on 16 carries, and Texico held Portales to a minus-7 net on the ground.
Sanchez, though, completed 21 passes, mostly short, to nine receivers for 208 yards, including scoring tosses of seven yards to junior Ed Banda in the third period and eight yards to senior Cruz Belden in the fourth.
“That’s the beauty of our offense,” Rams coach Jaime Ramirez said. “We haven’t scored a lot of points, but it’s really a team effort.
“We made a lot of mistakes in the red zone, but the kids battled and did what they needed to.”
Texico got its first points of the season on a 35-yard run by senior Kendall Naceanceno with 7:51 left in the game. The Wolverines ran 21 plays on their final two possessions, but were unable to cross the Portales 40.
“We finally started to do a few things (on offense), but it was too little, too late,” Wolverines coach Ryan Autrey said.
The teams slugged it out through the opening half. Portales’ Dustin Sisneros missed a 22-yard field goal wide left late in the first quarter, and three consecutive drives — two for Texico, one for the Rams — ended in interceptions late in a scoreless first half.
After forcing a three-and-out following the second-half kickoff, the Rams drove 71 yards in six plays to break through. Sanchez went 4-for-4 for 63 yards on the drive, capping it with a toss to Banda in the right corner of the end zone with eight minutes left in the third.
“I was kind of surprised because most of the passes were going to the left,” Banda said. “(Sanchez) gave me a signal and threw me a fade (route).”
Early in the final quarter, the Rams went 55 yards in nine plays. Sanchez had completions of 22 yards to Belden and 12 yards to Caleb Burciaga before finding Belden in the left corner for the score with 9:45 to go.
The Wolverines countered with a 54-yard march after a short kickoff. Naceanceno took a pitch from quarterback Justin Rucker around left end and raced to the end zone to get Texico within striking distance.
“That’s a good ballclub,” Ramirez said of the Wolverines. “They’re tough, and it was a battle all the way to the end. They do a great job of coaching those kids to be fundamentally sound.”
Burciaga finished with eight catches for 88 yards for Portales. The Rams intercepted Rucker three times, with Marcos Lucero getting two of them and Jarrett Faust the other.
Naceanceno ran for 114 yards on 27 attempts and also caught three passes for 37, while Gomez intercepted Sanchez twice.
“Our schedule doesn’t get any easier,” Autrey said, noting the Wolverines face Class 2A contender Hatch Valley next week at Estancia. “We’ve got to do some growing up real quick.
“The kids are playing hard; I can’t complain about the effort. As long as they keep giving me what they’re giving me, I think we’ll be OK.”