While Portales has cruised through two games in the Class 3A state playoffs, veteran Lovington coach Jaime Quinones says the Wildcats are just happy to still be playing.
The District 4-3A rivals face off in the state championship game today at Greyhound Stadium, and Quinones hopes his team’s come-from-behind 31-24 win in three overtimes last week against St. Michael’s provides motivation.
“It was a tough game,” Quinones said. “We were fortunate to come out on top.”
The Wildcats (9-3) scored twice in the final six minutes, including the tying score with 13 seconds left in regulation, to erase a 14-0 deficit.
Meantime, the Rams (9-3) are coming off comfortable wins over Cobre and Bloomfield. They won a coin flip for home field with Lovington after last week’s games.
“It just comes down to executing our stuff,” Rams coach Andy Correll said. “We’re still going to try to play fast; the kids have bought into that (style).”
Portales is averaging nearly 40 points this season, but was held to a season low in a 17-14 loss at Lovington on Oct. 24. That was the Rams’ last road game.
Correll said he thinks his senior-laden team will play better this time.
“I just think we were too pumped up,” he said of the first meeting. “I think we were concerned about hitting instead of just doing our jobs.
“I believe we have the group to get it done. This group has accomplished a lot.”
Neither team is planning many changes. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Jameson has played well after stepping in at quarterback when junior Ty Black was lost for the season to a torn ACL in the opener.
Meantime, the Rams have relied on a wide-open passing attack with senior QB Michael Trujillo.
“We have to stop the big play,” Quinones said. “They have a lot of weapons, and they make you play the whole field.
“Against their defense, we have to be able to get first downs.”
Correll said the Rams are probably playing as well now as they have all season.
“I really think the kids have stepped up their game,” he said. “I think we’re playing more to our ability now.”
When: 2 p.m. today at Greyhound Stadium in the Class 3A state championship game.
Last week: Lovington beat St. Michael’s 31-24 in three overtimes; Portales beat Bloomfield 42-26.
Notes: Portales is seeking its first win over the Wildcats since 1996, despite the fact that many of the games have been close. Included was a 17-14 Lovington win at home during the regular season. Senior running back Edgar Medina scored on a 19-yard run midway through the fourth quarter to give the Wildcats the lead for good. … Lovington replaced Portales as the No. 1 team in 3A after that win and has now won five in a row. … The Rams have made two state finals appearances (2002 and 2006) since their last title in 1988, which came in a 31-15 win over Ruidoso. Lovington has been in eight finals since 1989, winning titles in 1990, 1995, 2000, 2001 and 2004.