(In the semifinals, the Rams will play No. 1 Volcano Vista Saturday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m. at Nusenda Community Stadium.)
In theory, this should have been the most competitive of all the Class 6A football quarterfinal games.
Instead, it was the most lopsided.
No. 4 seed Rio Rancho put together what might have been its most impressive and complete all-around performance of the season on Friday night, swarming No. 5 Las Cruces and dominating all three phases of the game in a commanding 35-0 victory.
“Our team just wanted to take care of business,” said senior quarterback Isaiah Chavez, who threw for a touchdown and ran for 116 yards and a TD. “It’s state. We knew we had to buckle down. Practice was good (this week), everyone was good, we felt we were gonna come in and dominate anyone in our path.”
The Rams (7-4) will play No. 1 Volcano Vista (11-0) in next week’s semifinals at Nusenda Community Stadium.
The Rams’ defense frequently looked as though it had 13 or 14 players on the field, they so completely swallowed up Las Cruces’ overwhelmed offense. The Bulldawgs (9-3) were thwarted on the ground and in the air, and finished with just 101 yards. They punted four times in the first quarter alone.
“We clicked as a team, we clicked as a group,” Rio Rancho senior linebacker Tyler Woisin said. “We just executed. That’s all it was.”
The Rams had 295 rushing yards and 392 total. Chavez finished with 116 rush yards, tailback Zach Vigil another 117, and touchdown runs of 63 yards and 1 yard.
“They won most of the battles up front,” Las Cruces coach Mark Lopez said. “They did a really good job of going downhill at us, and they had a good game plan.”
The Bulldawgs hadn’t been shut out in a playoff game since 2004 against La Cueva.
Rio Rancho scored on its third possession, with Vigil scoring — untouched — on a 63-yard run through a gaping hole.
“I could have drove a car through there,” Chavez said. “It was an amazing hole.”
After the fourth punt by Las Cruces, Rio Rancho had a short field; Chavez went 48 yards for a TD in the final 21 seconds of the quarter.
Vigil added a 1-yard score in the first two minutes of the second quarter and the blowout was on, 21-0. Elijah Smith added a 39-yard score near the end of the half, and Chavez thrw 40 yards to Tyrese Watson for a score on the first drive of the third quarter.
“We knew we had to be more physical than they are, and they’re a physical team,” Rams coach David Howes said. “And a really good team. It’s hard to beat a good team twice (in one season).”
The first time they met, Rio Rancho won 26-21 in Las Cruces. On Friday, everything the Rams touched was golden.
“When it’s clicking, it’s hard to stop,” Howes said. “And it was clicking tonight.”
(James Yodice of the Albuquerque Journal contributed this story.)