RIO RANCHO — The night had a little bit of everything. Mostly what it had was a ball-hawking Rio Rancho defense.
The Rams forced five Farmington turnovers on Friday night, two of them becoming defensive scores, and No. 8-ranked Rio Rancho pulled away from the sixth-ranked Scorpions in the second half for a 48-28 victory.
Both teams are 4-2 headed into their bye week.
Rio Rancho bounced back from a “home” loss (at Cleveland), to Hobbs last week.
“It was very important,” said senior linebacker Ryan Brown, who brought back one of four Trel Griego interceptions for a 36-yard pick-6 just before halftime for a 21-14 Rio Rancho lead, the Rams’ first lead of the night. Rio Rancho safety Michael Jaquez also recovered a Farmington fumble in the end zone in the fourth quarter, and Vicente Tafoya returned on onside kick for a touchdown after the Scorpions climbed within two scores at 41-28 with 4:32 to go.
It was a rare exchange, as Alex Serrano of Farmington returned a punt for a touchdown, followed by Tafoya’s unusual kickoff return.
Even with four offensive touchdowns, the Rams had three empty possessions that were stopped inside the Farmington 10-yard line.
“We have to do better,” Rams coach Nate Pino said. “We’ve done a good job getting into scoring position.”
That continued a trend seen in a 24-21 loss last week to Hobbs, when Pino said they had seven drives inside the 30 but scored just one touchdown.
“Nobody likes losing and everybody wanted to bounce back,” senior wide receiver Anthony Raymer said. “We had an amazing week of practice, we were very focused and locked in. We were upset that we lost, and we brought it to this game and the outcome shows.”
The first drive Friday night for Rio Rancho that didn’t yield any points saw quarterback J.J. Arellano stopped inside the 1 on a fourth-down run just a few minutes into the game.
Two plays later, Griego and Cayden Haliburton combined for a 99-yard touchdown play. It was probably closer to 99 1/2 yards.
Arellano threw a 64-yard TD pass to Raymer, hitting him in full stride, to tie the game about 80 seconds later.
The Scorpions scored on the final play of the first quarter; the Rams, with a 34-yard strike from Arellano to Raymer, tied the game midway through the second quarter.
“Coach was doing great calling plays, and I just try my best and give my best effort to make a play for this team,” Raymer said.
It stayed 14-all until Brown’s pick, the fourth of the first half.
Arellano and Parker Miller connected on two scores in the third quarter for the Rams, who led 34-21 through three quarters. After the third of Rio Rancho’s empty red zone drives, Farmington fumbled it away on the next snap, with Jaquez’s recovery giving the Rams a three-score cushion at 41-21.
Griego finished 33-of-55 for 365 yards.
“He’s gonna move around, and he’s very agile,” Brown said. “We just had to find ways to overcome.”
Arellano was outstanding, finishing 25-for-35 for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
Raymer said the Rams need to be sharper when they are driving inside the red zone as District 1- 6A play looms in two weeks.
“The big plays are always gonna be there,” he said, “but there will be many times where we’ll be inside the 30 and we need to finish.”