Scoring on four of their first five possessions Friday night, the third-ranked Rio Rancho Rams easily crushed Atrisco Heritage Academy, 44-9, for their sixth win in a row in front of the smallest crowd of the season at Rio Rancho Stadium.
With six players suspended for the game because of what head coach David Howes termed “team discipline issues that we had to take care of,” some different names than usual found their way into the end zone.
Among them Daniel Barraza, Nikili Bowyer and Devon Dyer, who caught touchdown passes of 38, 13 and 5 yards from senior quarterback Isaiah Chavez.
Barraza’s catch and a 44-yard field goal by Zach Benedict gave the Rams a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
Benedict also went 3 for 3 on points-after, although on another would-be attempt he didn’t have a chance to kick because of a bad snap from center. Chavez ran the ball in for a 2-point conversion; Bailey Siverts on his lone PAT try.
Bowyer and Dyer’s catches in the second quarter, along with a 25-yard pick-six by Junior Hodnett, gave the Rams a 300 lead late in the first half.
The winless Jaguars (0-7, 0-3 in 1-5A) spoiled the shutout on the final play of the half, when Diego Winnikoff kicked a 19-yard field goal. The Jaguars, on the Rams’ 2 after back-to-back penalties, opted on fourth down to go for the field goal instead of trying for a TD.
The Rams took the second-half kickoff and ate up almost seven minutes on an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive capped by Zach Vigil’s 1-yard run to paydirt.
That gave the Rams (6-2, 3-0) a 35-point lead, 38-3, and began the running clock.
Back-up QB Joey Cave later led the Rams on a fourth-quarter scoring drive, a 10-play, 47-yarder that ended on is 2-yard run into the end zone.
The Jaguars followed that with the game’s final possession, a 12-play, 76-yard scoring drive ending with a 5-yard run by Sabastian Gonzalez.
Vigil led both teams in rushing with 79 yards on 17 carries and Chavez added 56 rushing yards on five carries. AHA quarterback Julio Borroel gained 63 yards on 11 carries to lead his team, as well as making some key stops on ram ball-carriers from his spot in the defensive backfield.
“Solid football,” Howes said, after his team went 5-for-6 in the red zone, had just one turnover – the Jaguars turned it over to the Rams on the next play. The defense limited the Jaguars to 108 rushing yards on 36 attempts and only 28 yards through the air.
Howes’ main objective for the game was to keep his players healthy for the final two regular-season games. Mission accomplished.
The Rams’ next game is Saturday at 1 at Nusenda Community Stadium, where they meet No. 1 Volcano Vista. The Hawks have been a nemesis for the Rams, who saw their eight-game regular-season winning streak end last season, when the Hawks outlasted the Rams 38-35 at Rio Rancho Stadium. In 2012, when the Rams headed into the postseason as the No. 1 seed, VVHS also handed the Rams a shocking home field loss, 25-24. Still, the Rams are 8-2 all-time vs. the Hawks.
“(Volcano Vista) has a large group of seniors that are playing well together,” Howes said of the Hawks. “They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast – they’re a good football team and we’re gonna have to definitely bring our best game.”