This is what you like to see for your Homecoming game, an enthusiastic crowd of students ready to cheer. It seemed like many of them stayed after the 90-minute lightning delay. (Herron photo)
Once again, the defense rose to the occasion, bailing out a lethargic offense and leading host Rio Rancho to a 20-13 Homecoming victory over Organ Mountain Friday night.
Before the game was over, there was a 90-minute lightning delay, and Rams starting quarterback Noah Nelson watched the fourth quarter on crutches, after injuring his right knee on a run for a first down.
The Rams picked off five passes thrown by Knights quarterback Logan Tarango, including a pick-6 by Andrew Gustafson in the third quarter, giving the Rams (3-1) a 20-10 lead.
The Rams scored first, converting a Knights fumble into a 53-yard, 12-play drive capped on a 2-yard fourth-down pass from Nelson to Jarvis Miera. Bryson Strohecker kicked the extra point.
The Knights (2-2) took advantage of a Nelson fumble, driving to the 9 before Nate Chavez kicked a 26-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
Nelson was picked off on the Rams’ next possession and the Knights ran two plays before the lightning delay of 1:30.
Three plays later, Juan Garcia scored on a 5-yard run, ending the Rams’ defense’s streak of nine quarters without giving up a TD. Chavez’s PAT gave the Knights a 10-7 lead.
It could have been worse for the Rams, because Knights quarterback Logan Tarango and running back Fabian Lozoya collided in the backfield, coughing up the ball at the Rams 1, with less than a minute before halftime.
The lightning delay occurred in the second quarter, and intermission was shortened to a few minutes, with the Rams picking off three Tarango aerials in the third quarter.
The first, by Josiah Martinez Ortiz y Pino, led to a 2-yard TD run by Nelson, followed 50 seconds later by Gustafson’s 21-yard return to paydirt.
Chavez’s second field goal of the game, a 31-yarder, closed out the scoring with 11:56 left in the contest.
Replacing Nelson, JJ Arellano couldn’t generate enough offense to get the Rams into scoring position again, managing to pick up only one first down in the time remaining, and the Rams, getting the ball with 3:32 left, went three-and-out — followed by a 5-yard punt that gave the Knights the ball, with a strong wind at their backs, near midfield.
Cue the defense: The Rams’ Diego Montaño ended the suspense by intercepting a pass.
This time, the Rams could run out the clock.
It was the Rams’ seventh win in as many meetings with the Knights.
The Rams hit the road, heading to Hobbs Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
RAMifications: It’s been 13 years since the Hobbs Eagles faced the Rams, and RRHS fans would like to forget about that one — a 56-43 Hobbs win at RRHS in the 2009 quarterfinals. The Rams won their first meeting with the Eagles, 28-21, in a first-round playoff game in Hobbs in 2007, and then beat Hobbs in its next game, 24-20, at RRHS in 2008.
… After they held on for that 13-7 win over visiting Eastlake on Sept. 2, the Rams moved from No. 8 to No. 5 in the MaxPreps poll. Fourth-ranked Hobbs has been climbing all season, from eighth to seventh and then fifth.
… Cleveland, back at No. 1, was at the Field of Dreams Saturday afternoon to meet No. 10 Las Cruces. “Stormcoming” arrives Friday at 7 p.m., when Cleveland entertains Artesia at Lightning Bolt Stadium.
… Heading into Week 4, two teams in District 1-6A, Cibola and Volcano Vista, are 3-0, while Atrisco Heritage Academy is off to a 2-1 start, buoyed by a 54-33 rout of Eldorado (0-3) last week.