No. 3 Cleveland (8-2, 4-1 in District 1-6A), which beat No. 2 Rio Rancho (6-4, 3-2), 35-20, Friday night in the annual City of Vision Championship Game at Rio Rancho Stadium, probably will receive a top-four seed and a free pass into the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A football playoffs, which start this coming weekend.
“We can be anywhere from a 2 to a 5,” speculated CHS coach Heath Ridenour, telling his players after the game they’d have a November to remember.
“We didn’t play like a championship team tonight and they did,” RRHS coach David Howes said after the game, scooping up sweaty jerseys and pants and putting them into a shopping cart in the locker room. “They played better than we did; kudos to them — they stepped it up in the second half and we didn’t.”
The Rams grabbed a 7-0 lead on their first possession, as senior quarterback Isaiah Chavez led them on a 16-play, 86-yard drive — with Chavez rushing for 32 of those yards — capped on his 9-yard run.
After the Rams recovered a Storm fumble, Chavez hooked up with Tyrese Watson on a 43-yard touchdown pass. The kick was blocked and the Rams had a 13-0 lead.
The Storm then scored 28 unanswered points to take command.
Quarterback Jeff Davison threw an 11-yard TD pass to Zavier Walker and then Davison went in from a yard out later in the second quarter. Trey Ortega added two of his five PATs and the Storm led, 14-13, at halftime.
Dorian Lewis, “limited” to 50 rushing yards on 13 carries by a stout Rams defense in the first half, helped make it 21-13 on a 16-yard run, followed by another 1-yard QB sneak by Davison.
The Storm led, 28-13, heading into the fourth quarter, when Chavez made things interesting by finding Watson behind the secondary for a 49-yard scoring strike on the third play of the period.
With just under 11 minutes remaining in the game and the Rams down 28-20, the next time they had the ball they went three and out.
The Storm then iced the game with a time-consuming drive of just 47 yards engineered by Davison, that required a dozen plays. Lewis, finishing with147 yards on 30 carries, ended it on a 5-yard run and the Rams were done.
“Isaiah’s gonna get his big plays — he’s just a good player,” Ridenour said. “If we can make them one-dimensional, we had a chance, you know.”
Howes still thought his team could be “somewhere between the 4 and the 5; I’m not sure yet,” despite incurring its fourth loss of the season — two losses to begin the campaign, and two setbacks to end the regular season.
“If we won, we would’ve been the 2,” he lamented.
You can find out for sure how the 12-team bracket looks, with the usual 12 seed at 5, 11 seed at 6, 10 seed at 7 and 9 seed at 8 in the first round, at nmact.org after 5 p.m. Saturday
The 6A quarterfinals run Nov. 15-16; the semifinals are the weekend of Nov. 22-23; the championship game will played the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 30. City of Vision teams have won the title three of the last five seasons: The Rams won in 2014 and ’16, the Storm won it all in ’15 and played in last year’s championship game, which they lost to La Cueva.