With the help of a rare field goal, Moriarty High’s football team grabbed an early lead and put up a valiant effort for three quarters in its Oct. 25 matchup against the visiting Portales Rams.

Moriarty’s defense held Portales (8-1, 2-0) to one touchdown until the fourth quarter before the Rams ultimately pulled away for the 26-3 victory.

It was Moriarty’s third consecutive loss, but the Pintos’ defense played one of its best games of the season.

“Our defense played great, the defense played lights out tonight,” Moriarty head coach Gabe Romero said after the game.

The Pintos stifled Portales—one of the top Class 4A teams in the state—in the first quarter, forcing a fumble on the Rams’ opening drive at the Moriarty 15-yard line that Asaiah Kamplain recovered.

Moriarty’s Justin Carmona ended Portales’ next drive when he picked off a Rams’ pass near midfield.

The Pintos (2-7, 0-2) got on the board early in the second quarter when Pavel Arguello—who also is a starter on the boys soccer team—hit a 21-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

It was Arguello’s first field goal of the season.

“Yeah, I’m one-for-one, 100 percent on the season,” Arguello said.

Moriarty’s defense forced the Rams to punt on their first possession of the second quarter, but a controversial non-call by the referees on the punt return proved costly for the Pintos.

Carmona, who was back to receive the punt, called for a fair catch but a Portales defender appeared to bump him. Carmona dropped the ball and the Rams recovered at the Pintos 15-yard line.

Romero called a time out and questioned the referees about the play but to no avail.

Two plays later, Portales got into the end zone for a 6-3 lead.

“I felt like their guy ran into Justin which made the ball come out, but the official said there was no contact at all,” Romero said. “To me that’s disappointing—on a fair catch, if he touches us that should be a flag.”

The score remained 6-3 until early in the fourth quarter when the Rams scored their second touchdown.

Portales scored another touchdown with just over four minutes remaining in the game for an 18-3 lead.

The Rams scored their final TD when they intercepted a Kenneth Poyner pass and ran it back 40 yards to the end zone with just over two minutes left.

“We were right there, we played really well until the last four minutes or so and then we kind of lost our steam,” Romero said, adding, “We’ve shown we can play with some of these good schools, we just gotta be able to finish.”

Moriarty wraps up its regular season Nov. 1 at Ruidoso (3-6, 0-2), and Romero believes a victory could get the Pintos into the state playoffs.

“My feeling is, if we win Friday, we’re in,” Romero said. “I’m hoping we can come out and play the way that we’ve shown we can play and play for a whole game.”