The Rio Rancho High School football team will be back at Rio Rancho Stadium Friday evening at 7, after a “home” loss at Cleveland last week, to face the Farmington Scorpions.
Rams fans may recall Rio Rancho’s original home field wasn’t even in the City of Vision: “Home” games in the debut season of 1997 were played at Bernalillo High School.
Last Friday’s game at Lightning Bolt Stadium was necessary because of two factors: There was a power outage, later determined to have been caused by a squirrel in a breaker box, and Cleveland’s football team being on the road.
Against visiting Hobbs (2-3), the “host” Rams (3-2) were outscored 17-7 in the second half and lost their Homecoming game.
Rams fans sat on the eastside bleachers, even though their team was the home team, choosing to squint into the sun until it dipped below the pressbox on the west side of the stadium.
Hobbs came in, trying to win its first game in the City of Vision — at either stadium — since November 2009, and had bene winless in four contests at Cleveland. Rio Rancho remains winless at Cleveland since November 2014. Someone had to end an ugly streak.
The Rams struck first with an 11-play, 62-yard drive capped by a 17-yard strike from Noah Nelson to Jace Pitt.
The Eagles tied it on the next possession, a seven-play, 78-yard drive ended with a 15-yard TD pass from Owen Callaway to Jeremiah Jaquez.
The Rams’ next possession ended in the red zone after a Nelson fumble.
On the second Eagles’ possession after that, Jayden Maxfield intercepted an errant Callaway pass, and three plays later, with three possible receivers sent out wide to the right, Nelson went that way and ripped off a 54-yard TD run.
Down 14-7 late in the first half, Hobbs had the ball on the Rams’ 4, but back-to-back 5-yard penalties led to an incomplete pass in the end zone on fourth down.
Hobbs tied the game on its third play of the second half, as Callaway spotted D’Shawn Franklin all alone on the Rams’ 40, turning it into a 61-yard TD pass.
Kicker Braddock Beaty gave Hobbs the lead for the first time on a 31-yard field goal with 1:33 left in the third quarter, and that’s the score when the final period began, right after Nelson was intercepted at the Eagles’ 5 by Javen Hernandez.
Fourteen plays later, Saul Armendariz ran the ball in from 14 yards out and after Beaty’s PAT, the Eagles had a comfortable 24-14 lead with 6:49 to play.
The Rams made it interesting when Nelson threw a pass to Anthony Raymer, who zigzagged his way through some Eagles and into the end zone, making it a 24-21 deficit after Bryson Strohecker’s point-after.
The Rams recovered the ensuing onside kick but went four and out.
Hobbs converted a key fourth down play on a run by Armendariz and Callaway completed a pass on another fourth-down play and the Eagles ran out the clock.
The game with the Scorpions (4-1) is the Rams’ final tune-up before the District 1-5A season begins in two weeks, when Atrisco Heritage Academy visits Rio Rancho Stadium on Oct. 6.
Last season, the Rams returned from the Four Corners with a 35-28 victory over the Scorpions, who have shut out their last two opponents, Cibola and Albuquerque High, by a combined score of 89-0.
Artesia 36, Cleveland 34: In a showdown at the Bulldog Bowl between two perennial gridiron powerhouses, the host Bulldogs (5-0) never trailed and outlasted Class 6A’s No. 1 Cleveland.
The Storm (3-2), expecting a stiff challenge from visiting Texas power Frenship (4-0) Friday at 6 p.m., were without All-State linebacker Stratton Shufelt, who was injured in the first quarter of the Storm’s previous game. CHS coach Robert Garza said he’s hopeful Shufelt will be back this week, but also noted he’s day to day.
“Strat’s a difference-maker in any game,” he said. “Would it have helped? Yeah, he definitely would have helped us, but we’re not going to make excuses about it.
“We couldn’t get off the field on third down … We have to get the job done on third down.”
“I don’t think a lot of people were picking us to win this game; there was a lot of in-house belief and our kids were really excited,” Artesia coach Jeremy Maupin told the Carlsbad Current-Argus.
“They played good. They were a solid team,” Garza said of the Bulldogs, who’d lost their first six meetings with the Storm.
Artesia scored on its opening drive and led at the end of the first quarter, 8-7, with the Storm’s Marcus La Cuesta’s pick-6 accounting for the Storm’s first TD.
The Bulldogs led 22-14 at intermission and 363-34 after three periods, with nobody scoring in the fourth quarter – although the Storm thought they had a TD.
“Once we got going, we felt pretty good about it,” Garza said. “The one time we had the lead, there was an inadvertent whistle, but it is what it is.”
Harris Mbueha scored three touchdowns, “his best game,” Garza said, for Cleveland. “He was the reason we were rolling in that second half.”
Quarterback Jordan Hatch threw three passes that were intercepted, Garza said, but “he also made some really good throws. I think he’s still making progress. He’s a sophomore and still taking his lumps.”
“Their guy went up, interfered with Jaden (Davis), but Jaden still caught the ball, broke off to the side and went down the sideline for a touchdown.
“The same guy that threw the flag also decided to blow is whistle, ’cuz he thought the ball was incomplete, and Jaden’s almost in the end zone. Actually, he ends up scoring, ’cuz nobody knew the play was dead,” Garza recalled. “We’re celebrating because we think we just broke a 70-yard touchdown to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but he inadvertently blew the whistle and the play didn’t count. … It really hurt our momentum.”
About seven minutes remained in regulation, he said.
“(Several) plays later, we threw an interception. It really changed the outcome.”
Garza knows it won’t be any easier Friday.
“This is definitely going to be the best football team we’ve played all year, for sure,” Garza said. “They’re really offensive-minded; they throw the heck out of the ball. They’ve got two Division 1 receivers, a quarterback that could go play somewhere. … They’ve got a ton of weapons.”
Last season in Texas, the Tigers beat the Storm 56-52 in the teams’ inaugural get-together. After that loss, the Storm began a seven-game winning streak, ending with the back-and-forth victory in the 6A championship game.