ROSWELL — It was a rough night up front for the Rams’ defense as Portales lost a non-district game to the Roswell Coyotes 43-14 on Friday night at the Wool Bowl.
“We talked about the fact that this game would be won or lost in the trenches, and it was won in the trenches tonight,” Portales coach Mark McAfee said.
The Rams looked like they were ready for a horse race early in the game as they took their first possession 71 yards on five plays for the first score of the game. After senior quarterback J.J. Collins hit junior Brandon Lovato for a 54-yard pass play, he handed off to junior Colin McAfee for a 4-yard touchdown run.
But on the Coyotes’ first possession, senior running back Kevin Kelly showed the Rams’ defense he would have to be reckoned with if Portales was to win. His first run went 12 yards, and he followed with runs of 22 and 9 yards before scoring on a 6-yard blast for a 7-6 Roswell lead.
Kelly, who eventually rushed for just over 200 yards, scored again from 6 yards out early in the second quarter to make it 14-6.
That touchdown was set up by a freak play that happened when the referees wound the clock and blew the whistle while the Rams were still huddled on the sideline after the first quarter. Kelly took the handoff with no defenders on the field but was caught on the Rams’ 11 by an alert Portales player after a 54-yard gain.
Coach McAfee said the referees normally warn coaches before they put the ball in play but they didn’t on that play.
“Ultimately, I guess it was our fault, but they didn’t warn us,” McAfee said.
The Rams got a spark after Kelly lost the handle on the football at the Portales 31 and sophomore Jafar Romero pounced on it.
McAfee, who rushed for 71 yards, broke a 26-yard run to the Coyotes’ 43 on the first play of the series then Collins went to work in the passing game.
After a 15-yard screen pass completion to junior David Rodriguez and two more running plays, Collins hit Rodriguez at the Roswell 7 on fourth-and-14. The Portales receiver turned and bulled his way to the end zone for the 21-yard touchdown.
Portales evened the score at 14-14 with a Collins pass to junior Jonathan Esparsen on the conversion.
To answer, Roswell High went 67 yards in just three plays, including a 42-yard gain up the middle by junior quarterback James Singleton, who then scored on an 18-yard run.
“We always want to perform to the best of our ability, and to some extent I think we regressed tonight,” coach McAfee said. “We didn’t sustain drives when we needed to, and there were a few other problems.”
The Rams begin their District 4-3A schedule on Friday as they travel to Lovington.