PORTALES – Over the past few campaigns, the Portales High football team have seen a number of games they were able to win go away late.
In Friday night’s season opener at Greyhound Stadium, the Rams were tied and determined not to do it again, keeping Highland at bay most of the time before securing a 31-16 victory over the Hornets.
Senior running back Emmanuel Diahn rushed for 163 yards and four touchdowns, while sophomore quarterback Paxton Culpepper was 15 for 17 through the air, including eight catches for 148 yards and a score from the junior wide. Zane Mayberry.
“We played well throughout the game,” Rams coach Jaime Ramirez said. “I think our defense played well. They bent a bit, but they really only gave up eight points.
“I’m proud of the way we played for four quarters.”
Most of Mayberry’s takes came on fast bubble screens in the apartment. He gave the Rams a 7-0 lead by catching a short pass from Culpepper and missing several Hornets as he tiptoed into the end zone.
Diahn took care of much of the rest, scoring on runs for 23 and 7 yards in the second quarter and 10 yards in the third before opening it up with a 53-yard run on the first play of the final stanza.
“I want to thank my linemen; they opened up holes,” Diahn said. “I’m just proud that our team got the ‘W’ today.”
Highland kicked the opening kickoff into scoring territory, but Hornets quarterback Alex Lopez lost a fumble inside the PHS 25 and second Xavier Tarpeh returned it 28 yards on the 45 Hornets. Culpepper and Mayberry then connected for the initial game score on the next game. .”
Highland then mounted a 10-play drive that ended in a 40-yard miss, and the Rams responded with Diahn’s first scored run on their next possession.
Two more runs from Diahn made it 25-8, but Highland broke through when Josiah Rodriguez stepped in on a short pass intended for Mayberry and returned it 77 yards to make it 25-16 late in the game. third period. Diahn, however, practically knocked him out of reach with his final TD to start the fourth verse.
It was the first home win since St. Pius won 6-0 in April 2021 to end a COVID-abbreviated spring season. Last fall, the Rams were 0-4 at home en route to a 2-8 mark.
“It feels good to win a game here,” Diahn said.
Diahn had left the game for a while in the third period due to cramps.
“But I kept coming in,” he said. “You just have to be a tough football player.”
Diahn is looking for a chance to play college football somewhere.
“I just hope that one day God will bless me with something,” he said.
Lopez scored on a 2-yard run in the second segment to pull the Hornets up 13-8, but they couldn’t get close.
Although Highland had several extended practices, the Rams posted a 407-275 advantage in total offense.
The Rams will look to go 2-0 on Thursday when they host former 4-4A District rival Ruidoso in a 7 p.m. kickoff.
“It’s a well-coached team by Kief Johnson,” Ramirez said. “I expect a good game.”
Ranking Districts 4-4A
Abq. Academy 0-0 1-0
Portals 0-0 1-0
Bernalillo 0-0 0-1
Lovington 0-0 0-1
Portales 31, Highland 16; Albuquerque Academy 37, Rio Grande 0; Roswell High 69, Lovington 29; Valley 36, Bernalillo 0.
Ruidoso at Portales, 7 p.m.
Bernalillo at Espanola Valley, 7:00 p.m.; Seminole (Texas) at Lovington, 7 p.m.
Moriarty at Albuquerque Academy, 1 p.m.