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Rams hit road for opener

PORTALES — West Las Vegas hasn’t beaten Portales High on the field in the short history of their series. But third-year Dons coach James Esquibel thinks his squad is getting close.

The teams meet in Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. opener in Las Vegas. Portales won last year’s contest 19-7 at Greyhound Stadium, but later had to forfeit that game and another one for using an ineligible player.

“We’ve got them at home this time, which is hopefully a plus for us,” Esquibel said. “We haven’t had too much luck when we went down there.”

While the two forfeits dropped Portales to a final 3-7 record a year ago, the Dons went on to an 8-2 mark and reached the Class 3A playoff semifinals before losing to PHS’ district rival, Lovington. West Las Vegas ended a six-year postseason drought in 2002, and last year’s district championship was the first in 26 years.

Both teams have scouted the other in preseason scrimmages.

“From what we saw, they’re pretty solid up front both offensively and defensively,” PHS coach Glenn Johnson said. “They graduated quite a few also, but even though their skill positions are young, they have good athletes.”

Esquibel said the Rams have a big hole to fill with the graduation of three-year starter Seth Clabaugh at quarterback, but otherwise haven’t changed that much.

“They look like Portales teams of the past,” he said. “They’re very big and physical, and they have good speed.”

The Rams platooned for the most part last season, but that will change. Johnson said he’s simply looking for the best 11 players, and to that end plans have seven two-way starters on Saturday.