LOVINGTON — The Portales Rams found out exactly how the Lovington Wildcats have earned their No. 1 ranking — an offense that never takes its foot off the pedal.
Lovington got a solid leg up on a trip to the state playoffs Friday with a 61-22 win over Portales in the District 4-3A opener for both teams Friday night.
The Wildcats’ offense was unstoppable for three quarters, scoring on each of its first nine drives. They didn’t punt the ball until early in the fourth quarter with the Rams trailing 61-16 and the clock running on the mercy rule.
That said, only two other Lovington opponents have hung more points on the Wildcats this season — Class 5A Hobbs and Class 4A Artesia, the only team to beat them.
“I think we played really hard but we were outmatched,” said Rams coach Mark McAfee. “They were a lot faster than us. I’m not going to fault the kids, they played their butts off.”
Lovington didn’t throw the ball as much as Portales coaches had feared, but when senior quarterback Jacob Jameson dropped back to pass he was deadly accurate, only missing the connection twice in 19 attempts.
More often, Jameson was making plays with his feet as he escaped pass rushes. That was the other thing Rams coaches had feared and 114 yards rushing, that fear was well-founded.
“We had the guys in place to stop them, but you had to be in the right place at the right time,” McAfee said of his defense. “We were at the right place most of the time but not always at the right time.”
The Cats got their first score after a long run by Jameson set up a 19-yard pass play to senior wide receiver Robert Perez. It was the first of three such connections on the night for Lovington.
Lovington went up 21-0 at the end of the first quarter after Jameson broke a 76-yard touchdown run and then hooked up with senior Cris Keeler with 1:10 left in the quarter.
The Rams battled back with a huge play at the end of the quarter,a 67-yard pass from senior quarterback J.J. Collins to junior David Rodriguez. With the ball advanced deep inside the red zone, junior Brandon Lovato put the Rams on the board with a 4-yard touchdown reception from Collins.
Rodriguez caught another big pass for the Rams on their next possession, this one 59 yards, and junior Colin McAfee smashed through the Wildcats’ line to make the score 28-16 with 7:47 left in the half.
Lovington didn’t waiver offensively while making the necessary adjustments defensively to slow Portales before the half. The Wildcats answered with three more touchdowns before the half, including scoring completions of 43 and 40 yards to Perez and another Jameson rushing touchdown of 25 yards.
When play resumed, Jameson tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Keeler and senior running back Robert Hargrove broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown scamper with just over three minutes left in the third.
Lovington began pulling its starters in the fourth quarter, and Portales got its final score with its backup running back on the field.
Junior Miguel Abarca broke a 14-yard run to move the ball inside the Wildcats’ 20 midway through the quarter. After a pass interference call and a 5-yard run by Collins, Abarca crashed in from 4 yards out.
The Rams close out their regular season home schedule with a non-district game against Artesia Friday then finish on the road at district foe Ruidoso the following week.