It’s not always both teams’ biggest game of the season, because the Cleveland and Rio Rancho football teams wind up in the postseason — ending up with the biggest games, as it turned out, in 2011, 2014-16, 2018 and 2019.
In five of those seasons, a City of Vision football team wound up being crowned as state champions: Cleveland in 2011, ’15 and ’19; Rio Rancho in 2014 and ’16. In the other year, 2018, the Storm lost to visiting La Cueva.
Oddly, it may seem, those last five championship games have been played in Rio Rancho, with only the “Perfect Storm’s” memorable comeback to beat Mayfield at the Field of Dreams in Las Cruces held elsewhere.
Regardless, Friday night’s City of Vision Championship Game — also to decide the District 1-6A champion and the No. 1 seed for the state playoffs — kicking off at 6 (note the change in time) at Rio Rancho Stadium will be a showdown of the state’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams, a combined 16-0 this season.
And, if crowds are something that may keep you away, ProView Networks will air the game on My50 TV.
The Storm visit the Rams on an impressive 18-game winning streak; the Rams extended their winning streak to eight games in their 57-7 Friday night win over Volcano Vista, the team they knocked out of the 2019 semifinals to set up the championship game with the Storm.
The last two Rams losses have been to the Storm, and the Rams have lost the last six times the teams have met at Rio Rancho Stadium and haven’t beaten the visiting Storm since Cleveland’s debut season of 2009.
And, regardless of how invincible — except for its recent 44-33 victory at Volcano Vista — when it comes to the annual Storm-Rams game, most coaches (in every sport) will say before a rivalry game, “When these two teams meet, you can throw the record books out the window.”
That’s the way the Rams need to look at it, having lost their last five meetings with the Storm, five of the last six and both postseason meetings, including the memorable, fingernail-biting Class 6A championship game played at Rio Rancho Stadium on a bitter December day in 2019.
And second-year RRHS head coach Gerard Pannoni may have some tricks up his sleeve, getting the Storm on his home turf and thus making this a must-see game for local fans — as well as bragging rights for what might be for another year or just into the postseason.
These teams could meet again in the state playoffs, as they’ve done twice before.
Says Rio Rancho Public Schools Director of Athletics Bruce Carver, “It’s exciting, as always.
“It’s a big game, but at the same time, whoever loses this game shouldn’t get too down — they’ll get another shot. The big game is the state championship … (This game) is a preliminary bout.”
Here are the key players on offense for each team:
Cleveland: Quarterback Evan Wysong (#10), running back Lucious Dickson (2) and receivers Nic Trujillo (7) and Ethan Duran (19). Wysong also handles place-kicking, kickoff and punting chores.
Rio Rancho: Quarterback Dominick Priddy (6), running back Zach Vigil (21) and receivers Traiven Williams (13) and Javas Maria (88). Bailey Siverts (82) does the kicking for the Rams, although Priddy does the punting.
Cleveland vs. Rio Rancho/all-time football meetings
2009 RIO RANCHO 50, Cleveland 19
2010 CLEVELAND 27, Rio Rancho 7
2011 Cleveland 34, RIO RANCHO 32
CLEVELAND 42, Rio Rancho 28
2012 Rio Rancho 35, CLEVELAND 0
2013 Cleveland 28, RIO RANCHO 14
2014 Rio Rancho 24, CLEVELAND 22
2015 Cleveland 44, RIO RANCHO 14
2016 Rio Rancho 42, CLEVELAND 28
2017 Cleveland 35, RIO RANCHO 32
2018 CLEVELAND 42, Rio Rancho 7
2019 Cleveland 35, RIO RANCHO 20
Cleveland 48, RIO RANCHO 40
Spring 2021 CLEVELAND 42, Rio Rancho 0
(Home team in all CAPS; postseason meetings are bold-faced.)