The Rams’ new scoreboard shows a victory for Nov. 3, after visiting Cleveland beat the Rams at home last week. (Herron photo)
RIO RANCHO — Down 14-7? No problem.
At Rio Rancho Stadium Friday night, 28 unanswered points led the No. 5 Rams from a 14-7 deficit midway through the second quarter to an eventual 14-point victory, 35-21, and into a Class 6A quarterfinal game at No. 4 Sandia next week.
The ever-elusive Elijah Brody gave the Mustangs (6-5) an early lead, but the Rams retaliated, thanks to a 41-yard return on the ensuing kickoff by Anthony Raymer, who then capped the Rams’ 8-play, 50-yard drive on a 15-yard touchdown reception from quarterback J.J. Arellano.
The Mustangs, dropping to 1-12 all-time vs. the Rams (8-3), then literally did the same thing: an 8-play, 50-yard scoring drive ended on a 1-yard run by Marcus Sharp.
Before halftime, the Rams scored twice to take the lead to keep, with Arellano tossing a 42-yard TD pass to Jace Pitt to tie it and a 3-yard TD pass to Parker Miller for what became a 21-14 lead at intermission.
After a scoreless third period, Rayce Ramirez, with 19 rushes for 180 yards, carried it into the end zone from the 13 and Arellano capped the Rams’ scoring with a 9-yard run.
Bryson Strohecker was good on all five points-after.
The Rams’ defense did what it could to keep Brody from escaping the pocket, although he wound up with 163 yards on 25 carries; until his 36-yard TD pass to Sharp, his longest completion of his first seven had been for just 10 yards.
Sharp kicked the point-after, giving him three of those in the game and 15 of the Mustangs’ points.
That score came with1:12 left to go. The Mustangs recovered the ensuing onside kick and Brody quickly completed what appeared to be a 44-yard TD pass, only to have an ineligible receiver spotted downfield, negating the play.
Arguably, the biggest play for the Rams defense came on the first play of the fourth quarter, with the game then a one-possession contest, as Diego Montano intercepted a Brody aerial, which was the lone turnover of the game – but a costly one for West Mesa, which had bene in the red zone just three plays earlier.
Ramirez, who set up Arellano’s 9-yard score with a 54-yard run of his own, said he heard a Mustang closing on him, before he was tackled at the 9.
“I did. I felt my leg tightening up,” he said, happy with the outcome. “That’s just a great team win; I thought we all executed. I’m really proud of our team today.”
Coach Nate Pino was also happy with the win, mildly concerned that his team had been penalized for almost 90 yards.
“We gotta get better at that,” Pino said, happy with the way his defense contained Brody for the most part and, “We tackled better in the second half. Ya gotta protect your end zone, finish and keep them out of there.”
The Rams are 6-3 all-time vs. the Matadors (8-2), who they last faced and beat 42-20 at the 2017 homecoming game.
Pino said he hasn’t been looking ahead.
“Honestly, we haven’t (looked ahead). We’ve been focused on West Mesa; we had to get through Week 1,” he said. “We’re going to dig in tomorrow and see what happens.”
“We’re going into that game with a good mindset,” Ramirez said. ”We should have been ranked higher than they were.”