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

Rams' pass defense to be put to test


September 7, 2018

Eric Murray

The Portales defensive line, pictured during Wednesday afternoon's practice, may be the biggest key for the Rams tonight at West Las Vegas. From left are defensive end Romeo Gbassagee, nose tackle Fred Johnson and defensive end Philip Blidi.

PORTALES — Last week’s contest against St. Mike’s was a good test for the Portales pass rush and pass defense. The Horsemen put it in the air 27 times, and yet, the Rams passed the test with flying colors in a 21-6 victory.

That Portales pass rush and pass defense will once again be put to the test tonight, as the Rams (1-1) travel to West Las Vegas for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Dons (1-1) should put it in the air plenty, as they average 27.5 pass attempts per game.

“Our D-line is key,” Rams head coach Jaime Ramirez said. “If we can apply pressure with three men, I think it makes the throwing lanes for the quarterback a little bit more difficult, because we have more guys in those lanes.

“If we can’t get to them with three-man pressure, then we’ll have to employ some type of blitzing and stuff like that to go ahead and throw off his timing. We don’t want him to be comfortable back there, when they do throw.”

The Dons beat up on Moriarty, 35-14, in Week 1, before losing a shootout to Santa Rosa, 56-46, last week.

West Las Vegas returns starting quarterback John Balizan and running back Antonio Bustamante. Balizan averages 266 yards per game, with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Balizan is completing 69.1 percent of his passes and has a 136.1 passer rating.

Bustamante, meanwhile, has 146 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. It’s another senior in Darion Williams, however, who leads the way on the ground with 215 yards and a couple of scores. All of that means this potent Dons offense is a balanced attack.

The Ram defensive line of Philip Blidi, Fred Johnson and Romeo Gbassagee already have an astounding 35 combined tackles in just two games. Defensive ends Blidi and Gbassagee are responsible for all three of the team’s sacks thus far.

“I think most teams that you see out there employ some type of run-pass combination. It’s probably all dependent — like it is with us — on which one we’re having success with, from week to week,” Ramirez explained. “You’re gonna be more pass when the pass lends itself to be more successful.”

Offensively, the Rams have left some points on the table due to turnovers and penalties, thus far. Nonetheless, they’ve moved the ball effortlessly through two games, as they themselves have shown a lot of balance.

Portales has 309 rushing yards and 264 passing yards in two games. But at any rate, Ramirez pointed out that West Las Vegas tends to lean pass, while Portales leans run. Tonight should be no different — at least for Ramirez’ squad.

“I think, offensively, we need to make sure we establish the run first,” Ramirez said. “I think that opens up other things in the passing game. Our key on offense is to make sure we establish the line of scrimmage. We need to dictate what we want to do, based on what we believe we can get through their alignments.”


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