The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Robertson tops Rams in 4A semifinals


November 26, 2017

Jane Phillips (Santa Fe New Mexican)

Robertson's Richard Armijo can't escape the diving tackle attempt from Portales' Baylor Diaz during Saturday's Class 4A semifinal.

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — The Robertson High Cardinals pulled out all the stops Saturday to net a 20-14 Class 4A semifinal win over Portales.

The Cardinals, playing Portales for the first time since losing last year's 4A title game 43-14, had a goal line stand to prevent a Rams go-ahead score with less than nine minutes remaining, then recorded a first down on a fake punt late that put them in the victory formation and into their third-straight 4A title game.

"We just came up a little bit short," Rams coach Jaime Ramirez said of his team's last offensive possession. "We worked down there, the kids worked hard — we just didn't get it done. We needed to get that score right there, I thought. But we came up a little bit short and (Robertson) played good defense; (it's) just a tough deal."

After Robertson (11-1) regained the lead with 3:19 to play in the third quarter, the Rams (10-2) looked to counter with a lengthy drive of their own. Portales faced a fourth-and-4 from the Robertson 28, but a false start pushed them back five yards further.

Needing nine yards, quarterback Tyrese Dawson found Braden Bridges along the sidelines, 13 yards down the field, to extend the drive. Three plays later, Dawson's deep post pass to Timothy Garcia was broken up in the end zone at the last possible second by a leaping Santiago Gonzalez.

Portales, however, would once again convert on a fourth down, as Dawson dumped off a screen to Garcia on fourth-and-11, gaining 14 yards and giving the Rams a first-and-goal from the Robertson 7-yard line.

A pair of Julian Garcia runs put Portales down to the 1, but then on third-and-goal, Dawson was stuffed for a loss of four yards, prompting Ramirez to use his final timeout. Finally, Steven Bustamante lined up in a wildcat formation with Dawson split out wide, but his keeper up the right side was sniffed out by a swarm of Cardinals defenders.

Robertson then took over with 8:44 to play, and methodically moved the football down the field, while chewing up clock. With less than two minutes remaining, the Cardinals faced a fourth-and-6 from the Rams 36.

Faced with a punt that would either pin Portales inside the 20 or result in a 16-yard net on a touchback, the Cardinals instead decided to dig deep inside their bag of tricks. Quarterback Arjay Ortiz, who also serves as the team's punter, took the snap, dropped back, and found a wide-open Jacob Gamel down the seem for a 26-yard gain, putting the game on ice.

"We've been working on it for about four, five weeks," Cardinals coach Leroy Gonzalez said of the fake punt. "Some things we do to give these guys a little fun, and it's kind of a tricky play, but it worked."

Early on, Robertson dominated the line of scrimmage, much like St. Michael's did when the Horsemen beat Portales earlier in the year. Robertson's opening drive covered 75 yards on nine plays, capped off by an Antonio Padilla 7-yard touchdown run.

The Cardinals - who missed the extra point on the first score, would then put together a quick five-play scoring drive, midway through the second quarter. Ortiz connected with Padilla on a 63-yard pass, which set up a Padilla 5-yard score on the next play.

On the pass, Ortiz thread the needle deep between two defenders, and the 5-foot-8 Padilla was somehow able to leap above the Rams defenders, come down with the ball and break one tackle, before being chased down at the 5. The score on the next play extended the Cardinal lead to 12-0, but the two-point conversion would ultimately fail.

Portales, however, would not go down without a fight. Ramirez decided to go with backup quarterback Julian Urioste for most of the game, after starting Dawson. Following the Robertson score, Urioste would complete two passes and rush for three first downs on the ensuing drive.

Urioste found Bridges in the back of the end zone for a 21-yard score to cut the deficit down to 12-7, just 87 seconds before halftime. Bridges' catch was a highlight just like Padilla's, with an over-the-shoulder one-handed grab and foot drag in bounds against tight man coverage.

That was the spark the defending state champion Rams were looking for, as they opened up the third quarter on fire. The Rams forced a three-and-out to start the half, and then took the ball from midfield.

Urioste rushed for all 52 yards on the drive, including a 33-yard scamper up the right sideline on a speed option, which put the Rams in front, 14-12. However, Robertson soon countered with a scoring drive of its own.

Not to be outdone by Urioste's 124 rushing yard performance, Ortiz put the Cardinals on his back, like he's done all season long. Ortiz gained 28 yards on the opening play of the drive, before spinning and breaking a 24-yard run for another first down, five plays later.

Ortiz then kept the ball on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, before walking in to put the Cardinals back ahead for good. Ortiz finished with 129 rushing yards and 126 passing yards, and now has over 1,700 yards on the ground this season.

"(Ortiz) came out and did some things in the second-half, and he ran the ball. He's a good athlete and he did a good job," Ramirez said. With the loss, the Rams will be unable to defend their 4A state crown.

For Ramirez, there was visible disappointment after the game, as another promising season came up just a bit short. "The kids worked hard and did a great effort all year long, so I can't say anything about that," Ramirez explained. "But, it sucks not coming away with a win today."

The Cardinals will stay at home for Saturday's state title game against Ruidoso, a 30-6 winner over Hatch Valley on Friday. For Gonzalez, he hopes that the third time's the charm.

"I don't want to be the Buffalo Bills," Gonzalez said, laughing. "It's good to play at home, and that's one thing that we wanted to do. We hadn't played the last two years at home, so it's something for our fans. I have great coaches, great fans, great players. It's good for them to have a state championship game right here in Vegas."


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