David Howes, the architect of 90 victories as head coach of the Rio Rancho High School football team, has decided it’s time to move along to the big time of Division 1 college football.

Howes – 90-41 in his 11 seasons as the Rams’ winningest football coach, with four district championships, two state championships and a state runner-up finish (last season) – won’t be going far, only to the South University of New Mexico campus, where he’ll be an assistant, in charge of the linebackers, for his brother-in-law Danny Gonzales.

The two once played high school football in the area: Howes played at Cibola, graduating in 1991; Gonzales was a Valley Viking, graduating in 1994.

Gonzales was named the Lobos’ head coach in December, succeeding Bob Davies after several years of declining attendance and losing records. The Gonzales Era begins Aug. 29 when Idaho State visits Dreamstyle Stadium to face the Lobos.

Howes, who’d been an assistant at RRHS during Phil Lopez’s four-year stint (2003-06), led the Rams to undefeated seasons in 2014 and ’16, bookending a perfect season by “Rio North” in 2015.

He said it’ll be tough to leave the school, where his football-playing son Joshua will be a senior in 2020, but it’s time to test the waters as Gonzales tries to resuscitate a program on life support – in addition to naming assistant coaches, he’ll be out recruiting new players, in addition to trying his best to retain Davie’s guys with additional years of eligibility.

Rio Rancho Public Schools Athletic Director Larry Chavez said he’s sorry to see Howes leave.

“Dave’s been a great guy to work with; he was one of the first guys from Rio Rancho High School to accept me (as district AD) coming over from Cleveland, to be his boss.”

More importantly, Chavez said, “He is leaving the program in better condition than when he found it — that’s what you want to do when you’re a coach.”

Chavez said he’ll meet with RRHS Athletic Director Vince Metzgar and Principal Sherri Carver “and come up with a plan of action and get their input.

“I would think with the success and the facilities (we won’t have trouble finding applicants); I think we’ll have a couple of internal candidates,” Chavez said. “We’re going for an educator, (as opposed to a contract coach). We’ll advertise (the opening) and it’ll be in the news.”