Are you ready for some football?
Of course you are, and you have been since August.
But tomorrow night, you’d better get to Lightning Bolt Stadium early, because it’s time for the annual City of Vision championship game: Rio Rancho at Cleveland.
This game decides the City of Vison’s best team.
In the past, it has pitted two unbeaten District 1-6A teams, but the Rams’ 34-22 loss to Volcano Vista on Oct. 21 (see story, this issue) meant that won’t happen. The Storm go into the game as the No. 1 team (per MaxPreps) in the state, and they’re coming off a 50-0 rout of Cibola on Oct. 21.
You won’t need to remind the head coaches of the importance, nor tradition, of this annual battle.
Cleveland coach Robert Garza and Rio Rancho coach Nate Pino were assistant coaches for more than a decade before getting their first jobs as head coaches after the 2021 season. Pino even played for the Rams, but almost a decade before Cleveland High opened.
To make this game even more special, the Observer fashioned a trophy and “officially” named the annual meeting of the city’s teams in time for the 2010 meeting, only the second between veteran Rio Rancho and newcomer Cleveland.
The Storm (7-2, 3-0 in 1-5A) have won the last seven meetings between the city’s team, including 6A championship games in 2019 and ’21. All-time, Cleveland is 12-4 vs. the Rams, including a 2011 state semifinal contest, when the Storm won their first state title after going 13-0.
Strangely, from 2011-17, the visiting team won each time. The Storm’s streak began in 2017 with a 35-32 victory at Rio Rancho Stadium.
No. 6 Rio Rancho (6-3, 2-1) has won eight district championships: 2004, ’05, ’06, ’08, ’09, ’12, ’14 and ’16. The Rams have two state titles: 2014 and 2016.
Cleveland has won seven district championships: 2010, ’11, ’13, ’15, ’17, ’18, ’21. The Storm have four blue trophies: 2011, ’15, ’19 and ’21. (And they were without a doubt the best team in 2020, when there was no postseason.)
Among the most-memorable Rams-Storm meetings:
2019: 6A championship game; Storm, 48-40, snuffing the Rams inside the 5 as the game ended.
2020: Each team played only four games in the pandemic-shortened season, actually played in the spring of 2021; Storm, 42-0.
2021: For the second week in a row, the Storm were down, 20-0, in the first half, including this victory at Rio Rancho Stadium; Storm, 28-27.
2021: 6A championship game; no contest, as a first-quarter interception on a “should’ve punted the ball on fourth down” pass play put Cleveland on the way to another title; Storm, 35-14.