One taste of glory isn’t enough, according to Rams coaches and players.
After winning a state championship in 2008 and then struggling through a 3-8 season where they were tossed from the playoffs in the first round, players and coaches know which type of season they prefer.
The Rams kick off the 2010 season Friday in Las Vegas, N.M., as they take on the Robertson Cardinals. Robertson was one of their three wins last season, with the other two being Ruidoso and Roswell High.
New head coach Mark McAfee says he’s tickled to death with the numbers he has out this year, and is equally pleased with the fact that he returns nine seniors and 10 juniors to this year’s roster.
Interviewed prior to Friday’s scrimmage with Lubbock Roosevelt, McAfee said he still hadn’t settled on a lineup and likely wouldn’t until practice this week.
“We still have a lot of battles and I want to keep them brewing for a while longer,” McAfee said.
Most of this year’s schedule looks pretty familiar with one glaring exception. Pencil in a visit from Class 4A power Artesia Bulldogs on Oct. 22. The Rams also host the Texico Wolverines, an new addition to last year’s schedule.
McAfee is unshaken by the competition Artesia will provide so late in the season.
“They’re more of a finesse type team,” McAfee said. “Every year we play Goddard, which is known as one of the most physical teams in the state. I think the only way you get better is to play great competition.”
It’s the first time in at least five years that Portales has played Artesia, once a district rival.
While he figures the Rams will still be a passing team, McAfee said he will likely run the ball a little more than in the recent past. He says to watch for a trap sweep bootleg series mixed with drop-back passes and a dose of three-step drops.
The word on defense is to simplify things and allow players to fly to the ball.
“We’re going to be more of a gap control defense instead of reads,” McAfee said. “It’s going to speed up our defense.”
Defensive coordinator Art Ontiveros says he’ll be looking to linebacker Johnny Esparsen to step up as the leader on that side of the ball.
“You’ve always got to have that guy who’s going to take charge and take control,” Ontiveros said. “I think he’s going to do that for us.”
McAfee says he’s happy with what he’s seeing.
“We’re real pleased with the way the kids are participating,” McAfee said. “They look like they’re having fun.”