Rams senior Marcos Lucero gets a step on Robertson’s James Gonzales III in the second quarter of Friday’s game at Greyhound Stadium. The pass was incomplete.
By Dave Wagner
BLACKWATER DRAW — After a bit of a rough start, the Portales Rams got the Robertson monkey off their backs Friday night.
Sophomore running back Bronte Staugaard rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries, including a 53-yard touchdown run, and the Rams completely shut out the Las Vegas-based Cardinals after their first possession of the game en route to a season-opening 14-6 victory at Greyhound Stadium.
PHS had lost twice to the Cardinals in each of the past two seasons, including both years in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Staugaard broke off his big run on the Rams’ first possession, putting PHS in front 7-6 less than two minutes after Robertson’s touchdown.
Then the Rams’ defense took over, holding the Cardinals to 62 yards and three first downs in the second half to protect the lead.
Rams coach Jaime Ramirez said his defense was misaligned three times on Robertson’s opening drive, resulting in runs of 16 and nine yards by junior Nathan Archuleta and 40 yards by senior James Gonzales III — the latter coming one play after a Cruz Belden sack of quarterback Nathan Lesperance turned a second-and-1 into third-and-long.
Gonzales capped the drive with a 4-yard bolt off right tackle, but kicker Connor Houdek’s PAT kick was wide right.
The Rams scored in five plays, with Staugaard going off left tackle on third-and-6 from the PHS 47 and getting some key blocks from his receivers downfield, including one by Belden.
“I just ran (the play) and took off,” said the slightly-built, 5-foot-8, 140 pound sophomore. “I made a couple of cuts and a couple of receivers made good blocks for me.
“It was a lot of fun. It’s my first year out here with the varsity, and I just want to keep working hard.”
Ramirez said he knew Staugaard could play.
“We saw his talent last year as a freshman,” he said. “I wanted to bring him up last year, but I felt he needed that year of maturity. He’ll carry the brunt of our offense.”
Staugaard wasn’t quite sure he’d start the game.
“I found out right before the game,” he said. “I knew I was probably going to start, but I was thinking I was going to be switching (off with other backs).”
With the teams mostly slugging it out in the middle of the field, the Rams took advantage of junior Dustin Sisneros’ 56-yard punt with the wind behind him to back the Cardinals to their 13 midway through the third quarter. On the first play, Lesperance optioned left and senior defensive end Jorge Jimenez ran him down, forcing a fumble that linebacker Marcos Lucero recovered at the Robertson 1.
Staugaard was stopped for no gain on first down, but senior quarterback Daniel Sanchez kept over the right side to score on the next play.
“They were going for the (quarterback) option,” Jimenez said. “I just hit him and caused a fumble.
“This is my revenge. Last year I had one tackle against them in the playoffs. We worked so hard in practice and in the weight room, and it paid off.”
PHS held Lesperance to two completions for minus-2 net yards. Gonzales finished with 150 yards on 19 carries for the Cardinals.
The Rams lost two players to injury. Senior running back/defensive back Jaime Sotelo went out in the first quarter with a right knee injury — Ramirez didn’t know after the game how serious it was — while senior linebacker Michael Poyner was sent to the hospital with what the coach said was an esophagus injury in the third quarter.