By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
After struggling mightily last season, the Portales and Raton football teams appear to be on the rebound.
Each has already exceeded modest win totals from 2012 as they head into today’s 7 p.m. matchup at Blackwater Draw.
“They’re playing real well right now,” Tigers coach Brock Walton said of the Rams. “Hopefully, we can give them a run for their money.”
The Tigers, 1-8 last year, won their first two games over Tucumcari and Trinidad, Colo., before running into a buzzsaw last Friday and absorbing a 56-7 loss at the hands of Class 4A Aztec.
Meantime, the Rams (3-0) exceeded last year’s win total (2-8) with a 49-8 pounding of West Las Vegas, the first time they’ve broken out on offense after a pair of close, low-scoring triumphs.
Defense has carried the day so far for the Rams.
“Because we play great defense, it allows our offense to play with more confidence,” Rams coach Jamie Ramirez said. “Definitely, our offense took a step in the right direction at West Las Vegas.”
Senior quarterback Daniel Sanchez threw for three touchdowns before being lifted at halftime against the Dons, and the PHS defense pitched a shutout until late.
“I thought they were a good football team last year,” Walton said. “They did a lot of good things, but they were a young team, pretty much like us.”
Walton said the Tigers hung with Aztec for most of a half, but a missed scoring opportunity inside the red zone kept them from getting within a touchdown late in the half.
Walton said the Tigers, the smallest school in Class 3A, had a good run from 2007-10, reaching the 3A semifinals three times in that stretch.
Cam Baird, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior, directs Raton’s offense and has three senior targets at wide receiver in Luis Ruiz, Toby Henson and Caleb Wood. Key linemen include guard-nose guard Mackenzie Main (6-3, 290) and center-defensive tackle Jordan Darris (5-8, 230).
“We’ve definitely got to have another solid performance,” Ramirez said. “We can’t afford to break down in any area.”
Raton (2-1) at Portales (3-0)
• When: 7 p.m. today at Greyhound Stadium
• Radio: KSEL-FM 105.9
• Last week: The Tigers lost to Class 4A power Aztec 56-7. The Rams rolled to a 49-8 victory at West Las Vegas.
• Last year: Portales notched one of its two wins in the matchup with the Tigers, winning 48-28 at Raton.