(The Storm will play Clovis Friday evening at 7 at Leon Williams Stadium in Clovis in a semifinal contest.)
Two fourth-down plays best illustrate Cleveland High’s 21-16 victory over visiting Centennial in a Class 6A state quarterfinal game Friday night.
In the third period of what was then a game tied at 7 and the Storm (9-2) facing a fourth-and-19 play from the Hawks’ 26, junior quarterback Jeff Davison connected with Tre Watson at the 2 and Watson walked in for the touchdown that gave the Storm a 13-7 lead; that became 14-7 after Trey Ortega kicked the point-after.
The other big fourth-down play belonged to Centennial (10-2).
After the Storm sacked quarterback Aidan Trujillo for the fourth time in the game, he threw a 20-yard pass to make up for it on third down, giving the Hawks the ball on the Storm’s 28. That made it fourth-and-6, and as the clock showed less than a minute was left in the fourth quarter, Trujillo’s final pass of the season was intercepted by Dominic Vasquez at the 17.
There was one more key fourth-down play that occurred before the final horn. After two kneel-downs by Davison and a short run by Dorian Lewis, Centennial used timeouts to keep 3.6 seconds on the clock for the Storm’s final fourth-down play.
Punt, and give the Hawks a chance for a TD?
No, Davison took the snap and retreated toward the end zone, making sure nobody would catch him as the horn sounded and he ran out of the end zone.
Safety, Centennial, cutting the final margin of victory from seven to five points.
Victory, Storm, giving them a final-four berth for the fifth year in a row.
“It’s not enough,” Storm coach Heath Ridenour said. “We’re about to play a damn good Clovis football team at Leon Williams Stadium. I am going to be cussed up and down the sideline; (defensive coordinator Eddie Kilmer) will be cussed up and down that sideline.
“C’mon with us. As long as you fight for me, as long as you fight for me, I will go anywhere in the world with you.”
He was referring to the Storm’s semifinal game at No. 2 Clovis (8-3) Friday at 7 p.m.; Ridenour and Kilmer spent time there as assistant coaches.
Earlier, Davison had thrown an 18-yard TD pass to Watson and gone in from 6 yards out.
Trujillo tossed TD passes covering 14 and 10 yards to Jordan Mendoza, each capping impressive 81-yard, 17-play drives, including one on the Hawks’ first possession of the game.
Although Lewis was effectively bottled up (15 carries for 79 yards, no TDs), save for a 21-yard pick-up in the second half, that didn’t matter.
“What Dorian did tonight is not going to show up in any statistical category,” Ridenour said. “That’s just the kind of character that guy’s got; he pass-blocked all night.”
Davison was 12-of-22 passing for 255 yards, without an interception. In fact, the Storm played turnover-free ball; the game’s lone turnover was the pick by Vasquez.
“Our defense got after people, you know,” he said. “Let’s give some credit where credit is due: That’s a very good football team right there.”
The Hawks’ season thus began (with an overtime victory over the Rams) and ended in Rio Rancho with the loss at Cleveland.
Storm warnings: In the other 5A quarterfinal games not played in the City of Vision Friday, No. 1 Volcano Vista outlasted No. 8 Mayfield, 35-28, and No. 5 La Cueva fell at Clovis, 37-17.