Make no mistake, I’m not someone who tosses the word “blessed” around lightly.

In fact, I rarely use it, but suffice it to say, I believe the city of Rio Rancho has been very fortunate to have two great football teams to rally around this fall — and for most of the past decade.

Go back to the 2011 season, only the third on the field for the Cleveland High program.

That’s when the Storm, then coached by Kirk Potter, turned in a perfect 13-0 campaign, capped by a come-from-behind victory over host Mayfield at the Field of Dreams in Las Cruces.

Now, go back to 2014: State championship games have become a tradition in the City of Vision, although I had to correct a local sports fan who suggested we change “City of Vision” to “City of Champions.”

We’ve got a long way to go to overcome Artesia and wrest that moniker from the Bulldogs!

Rio Rancho has hosted six of the last seven Class 6A championship football games, including yesterday’s contest featuring the city’s two schools at Cleveland’s Thunderbolt Stadium.

Those big games were held at Rio Rancho Stadium in 2014, ‘16 and ‘19, and at Cleveland High in 2015, 2018 and this weekend.

Observer Sports Editor Gary Herron

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s seven of the last 10 championship games that have had at least one Rio Rancho team playing for all the marbles.

This city isn’t noted for passionate prep fans. Most adult fans disappear after their kids graduate and don’t show up for football games, unlike other cities around the state, most notably Artesia.

Still, those who were at that game on a chilly December Saturday two years ago saw a real thriller, with Cleveland’s defense stopping the Rams deep inside Storm territory late in the game.

It’s unknown how many of the estimated 6,300 fans who came out to see the Storm-Rams game at Rio Rancho Stadium on Oct. 29 (a 28-27 Storm win) would show up Saturday, but those there expected to see a good game.

After the game, another episode of good sportsmanship was expected.

Although this game is a heated rivalry, most of the players know their opponents on the other side of Northern Boulevard and have played against them or with them for many years. There would be hugs as well as tears.

In the other state championship games here, RRHS won in ‘14 and ‘16; the Storm won in ‘15 and lost in ‘18.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding: The football power in the state used to be in the south, where Las Cruces and Mayfield seemed to own it, although La Cueva in Albuquerque and Clovis often had something to say about it.

Now, though, the power is right here in River City!

You can bet the Observer will be at Thunderbolt Stadium Saturday, and you’ll not only be able to see a photo gallery on our website (, but also a full account of the game, with photos, in the Dec. 5 edition of the Observer.

We would have liked to have the story in Sunday’s issue, but press times, availability of carriers and large expenses wouldn’t allow us to move our usual Friday-night deadline.