BLACKWATER DRAW — A comfortable halftime lead turned into a bit of a struggle for the Portales Rams on Friday night.
Senior quarterback Daniel Sanchez threw for three first-half touchdowns and the Rams buckled down after two scoring drives got Pojoaque back in the game, claiming a 26-14 victory over the Elks at Greyhound Stadium.
Portales (5-1) bounced back from a 33-point loss last week at Dexter, holding Pojoaque (3-3) to three first downs and forcing eight punts en route to a 19-0 halftime lead.
Rams coach Jaime Ramirez was concerned with his team’s mistakes and the fact PHS had a trouble putting the game away.
“I’m happy for the win, but I didn’t think we played a very good all-around game,” he said. “We’ve got to correct some of the things we did.”
Sanchez threw deep on scoring passes of 40 yards to senior Jarret Faust in the first quarter and 74 yards to junior John Young and 39 yards to senior Caleb Burciaga in the second stanza, helping the Rams pile up 282 yards by halftime.
“That’s what really helped us out,” Faust said of the passing game. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy; I knew we had to come out strong in the second half. I just hoped we could keep our composure.”
The Elks, who kicked off in each half after what coach John Ainsworth said was a misunderstanding with game officials, forced two three-and-outs to start the second half and promptly marched the ball for touchdown runs by senior quarterback John Ainsworth Jr., son of the coach, and senior fullback Adrian Trujillo.
“The second half, they got some momentum when they needed it,” Ramirez said of the Elks. “The scored, and they started to believe and make things happen.”
The Rams countered, scoring with the help of a third-down, roughing-the-passer penalty that negated a likely punting situation and gave PHS an automatic first down. Two plays later, sophomore running back Bronte Staugaard went in from 11 yards out in the final minute of the third period.
Pojoaque then mounted another drive, but Ainsworth Jr. was stripped of the ball inside the Rams’ 5-yard line and junior Matt Martinez recovered for Portales, all but sealing the win.
“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Coach Ainsworth said. “I’m proud of my kids; we could’ve laid down. We made them work for everything, but I felt like we beat ourselves (with mistakes).”
Sanchez, who went 7-of-8 in one stretch, finished 8-of-17 for 224 yards. Staugaard, who broke only one run for more than 11 yards, finished with 122 rushing yards on 26 carries.
Still, the Elks held PHS to just 68 yards in the final two periods.
“We’ve got to stay focused coming out of halftime,” said Faust, who is playing football this year for the first time since eighth grade. “We’re going to have to have a good week of practice going into Hope Christian (next Saturday’s opponent in Albuquerque).”