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Rams, Lovington meet in 4A playoff quarterfinals

PORTALES - If there ever was any question, the Lovington Wildcats showed Portales High they are more than capable when they stunned the Rams 20-14 on Oct. 28 at Greyhound Stadium in the battle for the District 4-6/4A championship.

PHS gets another crack at its rival at 7 p.m. on Friday when they meet again in a Class 4A quarterfinal playoff tilt on Lovington's blue-turf field.

"It's going to be another big ballgame," Rams coach Jaime Ramirez said. "They're good. The team that capitalizes on the other team's mistakes will be victorious."

While fourth-seeded Lovington (4-6) had a first-round bye, the Rams (8-3) got back on track with a 48-3 blowout of St. Pius on Friday at Clovis' Leon Williams Stadium.

After losing their first six games, the Wildcats have rolled off four wins in a row. Clearly, they outplayed Portales in the earlier matchup, although the Rams had a chance to pull it out late.

Ramirez said his team didn't lose by underestimating Lovington.

"I don't think we did," he said. "It was just one of those nights where we gave them a short field a couple of times. It took us until the second half to get going."

Down 14-0 at halftime, the Rams (8-3) cut the margin to six with just under seven minutes left on an 18-yard scoring pass from sophomore Paxton Culpepper to sophomore Tommy Lopez. The Rams then forced a three-and-out and put together a 14-play drive which took them to first-and-10 at the Wildcats' 14.

Lovington, though, sacked Culpepper twice in three plays and took over on downs with under a minute left.

The bye week undoubtedly allowed the Wildcats to nurse some nicks and bruises.

"That was a time for them to heal," Ramirez said. "(But the bye) could go both ways. It comes down to whoever executes the best.

"We'll tweak some things, but what's got us here is how we'll play."

Senior running back Emmanuel Diahn saw his most extensive duty in several weeks against St. Pius. Although he fumbled twice, he finished with 70 yards rushing on seven carries, including a 46-yard run, and scored a touchdown.

Ramirez said junior running back Zach Radloff, who sat out Friday's game with strep throat, should also be available for Friday's clash.

The winners faces either top-seeded Silver or No. 8 Aztec, who meet on Saturday at Silver, in next week's semifinal round.

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