Cats, Rams decided to play for district crowns

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CLOVIS – It’s no big surprise that Portales High is playing in the district football championship game this week, and the Rams didn’t disappoint.

However, for Clovis High, the Wildcats entered District 5-6A on a six-game winless streak. But they took three wins — two of them lopsided — into Friday’s battle for the district title and possibly a spot in the Class 6A playoffs, at Los Lunas (5-4, 3-0).

First-year Wildcats coach Andrew McCraw has a pretty simple explanation.

“Less revs,” he said. “We moved the ball really, really well on offense and that helped keep our defense fresh.”

Since beating Albuquerque High 31-28 in the final minute to open district play, the Wildcats have only won once against Santa Fe High 53-0 and Santa Fe Capital 40-6 at Leon Williams Stadium in the last two games of the game.

They face much tougher competition this week against the Tigers, who were the 2021 Class 5A state champions and are coming off a second week.

Ranked 16th in 6A, the Cats absolutely need a win to make the 12-team playoffs, while the 10th-ranked Tigers may or may not. However, if they lose, their fate will be in the hands of the NMAA selection committee.

Among the leaders for Los Lunas are senior quarterback Paul Siremans, who has thrown 14 touchdown passes and no interceptions in eight games, and senior linebacker Miguel Andrade.

“They have some good players back,” said McCraw, whose Belen team lost to the Tigers in the regular season and the 5A playoffs last season. “They have a great offensive line. They are going to line up and shoot the ball right at you.

“Hopefully we can match their intensity and take care of our business.”

This week’s challenge is made more difficult by the Cats’ absence of senior head of safety/security RJ Nora, who will sit out this match after being sent off following a brawl with Jaguars senior Matthew Lovato during last week’s match.

Lavington at Portales – Looking at the records, the Rams (8-1, 2-0, District 4-6/4A) have a big advantage over the rival Wildcats (3-6, 2-0) heading into Friday’s game against Greyhound Stadium.

But Lavington played on a tough predistrict slate and, despite its record, is still ranked No. 4 in MaxPreps Class 4A.

“Lovington has to be in (the playoffs), win or lose,” Rams coach Jaime Ramirez said. “They’re a good football team.”

Ramirez stresses that his team, which is ranked second behind Silver (8-1) in 4A, isn’t worried about anything but this game.

“We are playing for the district championship,” he said. “We’re just focused on that. Everything that happens is out of our control.”

Both teams dominated their two remaining district opponents – Portales defeated Albuquerque Academy 42-7 and Bernalillo 50-6, while Lovington defeated the Spartans 33-7 and defeated Academy 43-14 on Friday.

Win or lose, the Rams are all but guaranteed a first-round bye … and the same can be said for the Wildcats.

Senior quarterback Ashton Aranda threw for 15 touchdowns and 1,511 yards and added seven TDs and a team-leading 580 yards. Sophomores Camon Ochoa and Ondalis Cardenas also had solid seasons on offense.

For that, Portales must have senior defenseman/defender Emmanuel Dian. Dian has been out of practice for a week with the flu and missed the Academy competition with an ankle problem.

In his place, junior Zach Radloff and sophomore Kaedyn Cordova have been able to fill the void well.

“Both Kaydin and Zach handled the load well,” Ramirez said. “And before that they were fine; E-Man has had ankle problems throughout the season.”

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