PORTALES – With about seven minutes left in its game at Portales, Oct. 20, the Ruidoso Warrior football team seemed to have caught a big break.
Portales, leading 21-15, had just fumbled the ball away on their own 29 yard line.
But Ruidoso was unable to capitalize, as quarterback Brennam Stewart threw an interception, and Tyrese Dawson took it to the Warrior 35 yard line.
From there, Portales eventually got a 32-yard field goal by Julian Telles to essentially seal the 24-15 victory.
The loss may have been a bitter pill to swallow for Ruidoso (6-3, 2-1 District 4-4A), but Warrior coach Kief Johnson said to the game showed the parity of Class 4A in New Mexico.
“This was a great game, and it could have very easily been the other way around,” Johnson said. “It shows that anybody can beat anybody in 4A, and we’re right there in the hunt.”
To illustrate his point, the big District 2/5-4A matchup between St. Michael’s and No. 1 Robertson ended up in a 33-27 Horseman win.
Keep in mind, St. Michael’s owns the only loss by Portales
Actually, the final field goal that ultimately put the game out of reach for Ruidoso might not have mattered if an earlier play had been called differently.
With 3:16 left in the third quarter, Ruidoso’s defense got to Portales quarterback Dawson, who seemed to have been stopped in the Ram end zone for the Warriors’ second safety of the game.
But the officials placed the ball instead at the Portales two, claiming that’s where Dawson’s momentum had been stopped. The Rams (7-1, 2-0) were able to get a good punt from Jose Solorzano that put the ball at the Warrior 30.
Had the safety been allowed to stand, the final field goal by the Rams would not have made it a two possession game.
But being within a touchdown and actually being able to score that touchdown are two different things.
Case in point: Stewart found Layson Powell at midfield on 4th-and-10 to keep the drive alive with 1:24 left, but it was called back on a holding penalty which killed the momentum. Ruidoso later gave up the ball on downs.
Johnson said that was indicative of what needs correcting.
“We have to eliminate some of those holding penalties, and that’s something that hurt us throughout the game,” Johnson said. “The only thing hurting us was ourselves.”
Portales came out throwing to start, utilizing several out routes for lots of short gains to march the ball down the field after the opening kick off.
All that eventually gave the Rams the first score of the game, on a six-yard run by Tyrese Dawson with 8:59 left.
Dawson was Portales’ greatest offensive threat, as he scored twice more in the second quarter on almost identical runs and ended the game with 163 yards.
Ruidoso was unable to do anything offensively at first, but a great punt by Layson Powell pinned the Rams down at their own 1-yard line.
It was then that the Warrior defense got to work, and eventually got a safety. This one counted, and it was a 7-2 Portales lead.
Ruidoso eventually scored a touchdown of its own on a 40-yard pass from Stewart to Isaiah Otero, and the Warriors had a 9-7 lead by the end of the first quarter.
But that was the only lead the Warriors would enjoy.
By the time halftime rolled around, Dawson had scored his two touchdowns, and the Rams were once again on top, leading 21-9.
But Ruidoso wasn’t about to quit, scoring in the third quarter on a nifty direct snap to Grady Woodul, who fell into the end zone from 1 yard out to make it 21-15.
That set the stage for all the fourth quarter dramatics.
“We made a few adjustments and we had to stop some of the screen passes they were throwing on the outside,” Johnson said. “Once we got those slowed down, then we were able to slow down the run game a little bit.”
Ruidoso now has a bye week to get prepared for their final regular-season game against Moriarty.
The Pintos, meanwhile, are taking on Portales next week.
“Moriarty’s a good team, they beat St. Mike’s,” Johnson said, further illustrating the parity in Class 4A. “We’ll see them play Moriarty next week (against Portales) and see what they’ve got.”