Portales’ veteran linemen should get a good early test tonight.
The Rams host Las Vegas Robertson in the 7 p.m. season opener for both teams at Greyhound Stadium, and the Cardinals present an immediate challenge with third-year starters Sam Marquez at center and Isaac Santa Cruz at right tackle leading a big, strong offensive front.
“They’re going to play us a very, very physical football game,” Rams coach Mark McAfee said. “We’re going to have to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”
While a number of Rams linemen are expected to play both ways, Robertson offensive coordinator and acting head coach Adrian Gonzales said the Cardinals try to platoon up front as much as possible.
Gonzales is filling in for head coach Leroy Gonzalez, who underwent a kidney transplant in early July. He won’t be at Friday’s game, but may be able to coach from the press box after that, Adrian Gonzales said.
The Cardinals went 9-3 last season and lost to eventual champion Lovington in the Class 3A state semifinals.
“Our team goal every year coming in is nothing less than a state championship,” Adrian Gonzales said. “We felt that, by coming up short, we still have something to prove this year.”
The Cardinals have another third-year starter in senior running back-strong safety Dalan Abreu, who rushed for 1,030 yards last season. Robertson had three backs, including its graduated quarterback, who finished with at least 960 yards on the ground.
Each team had a chance to scout the other in preseason scrimmages. Robertson won last year’s matchup 41-6, but two years ago the Rams won a 42-41 shootout at Greyhound Stadium.
“I think physically, we match up pretty good,” McAfee said. “It comes down to who’s ready to play the football game.”
Gonzales said the Rams looked pretty good, from what he saw.
“Their defensive line looks pretty stout, and their linebackers go to the ball well,” he said. “We’ve just got to be ready for a physical game.”
Meantime, the Rams hope to get off to a good start after winning just one game last season. McAfee, though, doesn’t want to compare last year’s team to this one.
“We’ve got to set the tone for our season on Friday night,” McAfee said. “This team has their own personality, and it’s their opportunity to have a breakout season.”