Portales coach Andy Correll comforts senior running back Eric Segovia during a 28-6 loss to Robertson in the Class 3A state championship game Saturday at Greyhound Stadium. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Mickey Winfield: Freedom Newspapers
BLACKWATER DRAW — A pair of sustained drives sandwiched a Portales miscue in the first half and the Las Vegas Robertson Cardinals went on to a 28-6 victory Saturday, earning their second consecutive Class 3A state football championship.
“(Our kids) came out ready to play,” Robertson head coach Chad Roanhaus said. “I thought our focus on the bus was really good on the ride up. We got off the bus, and we came out of the locker room ready to play, and that’s why our execution was so good in the first half.”
Robertson, which finished its season 12-1, led 21-0 at halftime and there was little drama after that.
“(Scoring early) was huge,” Roanhaus said. “We wanted to keep their offense off the field, and we wanted to eat up as much clock as we could with our offense. The way our line played up front, and the way our running backs ran the ball, we were able to do that.”
Robertson’s first score came midway through the first quarter. Senior quarterback Ethan Maestas led an 11-play, 50-yard drive, capped by Sean O’Brien’s 1-yard scoring run.
On the ensuing kickoff, Portales fumbled and Robertson recovered. Seven plays and 29 yards later, the Cardinals had their second score.
The next time Robertson touched the ball, it ran seven straight times for 50 yards, setting up an 18-yard touchdown pass from Maestas to sophomore Nathan Vigil.
Portales could not manage a first down in its first three possessions. While the Rams matched the Cardinals in the second half, they couldn’t climb out of the hole.
“They’re big, they’re strong, we were probably out-powered there for a little bit,” Rams coach Andy Correll said.
The Rams did have a few bright moments on the cold afternoon.
On the opening possession of the second half, junior quarterback Chris Mosier led Portales on a six-play, 85-yard drive. The highway was a 69-yard Mosier dash to the Robertson 4 yard line. Two plays later, senior running back Eric Segovia punched it in from the 1, bringing Portales within 21-6.
But both defenses stiffened after that, until late in the fourth quarter, when Robertson senior running back Ricardo Alexander broke through the middle of the Rams’ defense and sprinted 66 yards to clinch the game.
“We just had to play on our side of the 50 (yard line),” Portales defensive coordinator Mark McAfee said. “And against a team like Robertson, you can’t do that. We tried — the effort was there. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Correll said the Rams did not play to their potential in the first half. “We saw a little bit more (execution) in the second half, we just ran out of time,” he said. “I don’t know how else to put it. We just didn’t execute to the level that we can.”
Robertson’s coach Roanhaus offered praise for the Rams, who finished their season 7-6.
“We knew (Portales) was a much-improved football team, and they showed it today,” he said. “It was a hard week of practice with the (unpredictable) weather. I thought our focus this week was good, and we had to prepare for a good offensive football team, and we got the job done.”
Portales was among the state’s surprise playoff teams, entering the postseason with a losing record, but knocking off two of the top-three seeded teams on the road to reach the title game.
“I couldn’t be any prouder (of) this team; these guys have come so far, and worked so hard,” Correll said.
“It’s heartbreaking,” McAfee said. “We’ve come a long ways — leaps and bounds. Not only have (Rams players) improved in the game of football, but they’ve grown up to become young men, and I really believe that.”