A Cleveland Storm player is treated for a minor injury during the team’s August 9 scrimmage vs. West Mesa at Lightning Bolt Stadium. (Joe Grimando photo)
It just doesn’t seem right, but after this weekend, two of the state’s best Class 6A football teams will be winless.
Of course, it’s only the opening week of the 2023 season and it’s more important to be No. 1 in late November than early August, but that’s the way it is.
Three of last season’s “final four” square off this week, with Rio Rancho meeting 2023 runner-up La Cueva Friday evening at 7 at Wilson Stadium, while defending champ Cleveland heads south for a Saturday meeting with Centennial, which lost to La Cueva in a semifinal last season.
Centennial had the distinction of handing Cleveland an end to its 22-game winning streak in a 2033 opener at Lightning Bolt Stadium and ending the Rams’ season, 41-14. No. 2 La Cueva then outlasted the No. 3 Hawks, 42-35, while the No. 1 Storm whipped No. 5 Volcano Vista, 47-24, to set up a high-scoring championship game, No. 1 vs. No. 2, at Wilson Stadium.
Fans can stay in the city, with a choice to make, next Friday, August 25, when the Rams are home to meet Eldorado, while the Storm get another shot at La Cueva. Both games kick-off at 7 p.m.
Friday Night Lights: Wilson Stadium, 7 p.m.
The state runner-up Bears of 2022 get back-to-back games with City of Vision teams, opening with the Rams for the second season in a row. Last year, La Cueva visited Rio Rancho Stadium and didn’t allow an offensive TD in a 31-7 victory.
The Bears have a new quarterback, with last year’s signal-caller Aidan Armenta, now at UNM. The Rams are hoping senior returnee Noah Nelson can stay healthy for the season, but coach Nate Pino knows junior back-up JJ Arellano is more than capable, having taken the reins from Nelson after he was hurt midway through the 2022 campaign.
All-time, the Rams are 5-2 vs. Da Bears, and 5-0 in their meetings at Wilson Stadium.
Saturday: Heat will be on at Field of Dreams, 1 p.m.
After losing the first six times they faced the Storm, the Hawks ended CHS’s 15-game home field winning streak with a hard-fought 38-35 victory at Lightning Bolt Stadium last season.
Cleveland had a chance to win but came up short late in the contest. CHS opened its 2021 season at the Field of Dreams, where this game will be played on undoubtedly a blazing sun, with a 49-21 victory.
This game marks the first start for quarterback Jordan Hatch, only a sophomore, but one who not only got some varsity snaps in 2022 but is also receiving notice from college teams.
By the way, Cleveland is 13-0 in games played at the Field of Dreams, including its first championship, a victory there over Mayfield in 2011.
First downs: In the Green Bay Packers’ 36-19 victory over Cincinnati last week, former Rio Rancho High School standout Keshawn Banks made two tackles, which included a rush from the edge to drop the Bengals running back behind the line of scrimmage. The former San Diego State defensive lineman is hoping to make the Pack’s opening day roster as a rookie.