RIO RANCHO – Just as they’d done in their 2023 opener, the Rio Rancho Rams scored on its first possession, jumping out to a 7-0 lead over visiting Eldorado before many of the fans had taken their seats at Rio Rancho Stadium.
The football game was less than a minute old when junior quarterback JJ Arellano tossed a short pass to Dominic Valencia, and it went for a 64-yard touchdown pass.
That set the tone early for the Rams, who went on to whip Eldorado (1-1), 40-26, on a humid Saturday afternoon. The game had been scheduled for Friday night, but multiple lightning delays led to the postponement.
By game’s end, five of the Rams’ six TD plays covered 25 or more yards, including the opening TD reception by Valencia. Anthony Raymer caught a 26-yard TD pass from Noah Nelson, who alternated throughout the first half with Arellano; Raymer later hauled in a 45-yard scoring pass from Arellano, Ethan Rolon was on the receiving end of a 55-yard TD pass from Arellano and Raymer scored on a 60-yard end-around, or jet sweep, the Rams’ final TD of the hot afternoon.
Running back Rayce Ramirez helped the Rams take a 19-7 lead on the first play of the second quarter on a 2-yard run – the Rams’ only red zone visit of the game. Eldorado was 2 for 2 on its red zone trips.
After the Rams’ quarterbacking duo combined to complete 14 pass out of 17 attempts in the first half, good for 278 yards four TDs, RRHS didn’t complete a pass in the sluggish second half, with each team scoring one TD in the third quarter before a scoreless fourth quarter.
“Both of those guys did a great job,” coach Nate Pino said. “JJ was in a rhythm, so we went with him (longer). Both those guys are gona play from here on out.”
Raymer showed his ability to focus on the task at hand on his second TD, which required some juggling of the pigskin in the end zone.
“It was definitely one to remember,” the senior said. “I went up for it; it got tipped. I saw it and I took it in, ran backwards and tried to make a play off it, and thank God, I did.”
“He’s a playmaker for sure,” Pino said. “He’s got the wheels.”
Pino wasn’t as happy with his defense, saying, “I think in the first half, we gave up some big plays, plain and simple. We got beat over the top. We talked about that coming into the game – if we can limit their dynamic plays, those wide receivers are pretty good.”
Overall, and coming off a disappointing loss to La Cueva in their Aug. 18 opener, Raymer said, “We had a great game plan going into this game. We played for each other, offense and defense, and we made plays. We got the ‘W’ today.”
Raymer had five receptions in the game, two thrown by Arellano and three from Nelson.
As far as he’s concerned, it doesn’t matter who’s taking the snap from center, Arellano or Nelson.
“I would say it’s pretty similar. They both get me the ball. They are great leaders on the field,” Raymer lauded. “I have nothing but good words to say about them.”
Check out photos from the action.
RAMifications: The Rams head south to El Paso to face Eastlake Friday night. This will be the second meeting between the Rams and this El Paso squad, which lost the first meeting, 13-7, to the Rams at Rio Rancho Stadium last September. Eastlake whipped El Paso Andress 33-0 in its season opener last Friday.
… The Observer erroneously had the Rams’ first game’s final score 35-7 in the Aug. 24 issue; it was actually a 35-14 victory by La Cueva. The score was correct in the online version.