It’s like Alabama losing coach Nick Saban, or the Kansas City Chiefs losing coach Andy Reid.
Or maybe like Dave Howes leaving Rio Rancho High School after 11 seasons, which he did after the 2019 season.
Say it ain’t so, Joe — the Cleveland Storm have lost their coach, Heath Ridenour, who led Cleveland to five district titles and four state championship games.
The Storm will take a 22-game winning streak into the 2022 season under a new head coach.
Social media was on fire Jan. 4 with reports that Ridenour was leaving the high school ranks to take a job as quarterbacks coach at the University of New Mexico, which had its quarterbacks coach leave after the 2020 season and again after the 2021 season.
“I should have put 2 and 2 together when that quarterbacks coach left,” Rio Rancho Public Schools Executive Director of Athletics Bruce Carver said Wednesday morning. “I think a lot of him, that’s for sure.”
Ridenour, who played quarterback for Lovington High School and then at Eastern New Mexico University, tutored quite a few successful QBs at Cleveland: Cole Gautsche, Gabe Ortega, Angelo Trujillo, Jeff Davison and (back for 2022) Evan Wysong and back-up Elijah Brody.
He’ll have his hands full at UNM, which ranked 127th of 130 FBS teams in passing offense in 2021, after averaging 114 yards through the air per game, but at least he’ll be familiar with one of the Lobo QBs: Isaiah Chavez was the Rams’ quarterback in the 2019 championship game.
Carver said he wasn’t totally surprised, noting that Hobbs High School had pursued Ridenour a few seasons ago and, “When you have a head coach that’s had the success he’s had, you know there will be opportunities, (so) I wasn’t shocked.
Contract details were worked out later in the week, and Ridenour, now done at CHS, starts at UNM on Monday.
“Being in this business as long as I have, it’s just part of the business — coaches come and go, and you just have to move forward. But it’s definitely a huge loss,” Carver said.
“He’s an outstanding head football coach but he’s every bit as good a person as he is a coach… Looking back, he has that rare ability, I think, where he can relate to kids and they really want to play for him. But he can still keep a tight rein and push them to their maximum.”
Oddly, after Cleveland and Rio Rancho met in the 2019 Class 6A championship game, Rams head coach Howes announced he was headed to UNM to be an assistant.
Now, shortly after those teams met again in the 2021 championship game, Storm head coach Ridenour had a similar announcement.
When the Storm’s original head coach, Kirk Potter, resigned after the 2011 championship season, Ridenour, then the team’s offensive coordinator, was elevated to head coach without a search for Potter’s successor.
Once again, a promotion from within landed a successor: Longtime assistant Robert Garza, who has taught and coached at CHS since it opened in 2009, was named last week to replace Ridenour.
“(Garza) deserves this chance,” Ridenour said.

Heath Ridenour makes a point during the Storm’s 2021 championship win. (JB GALLEGOS photo)