“Friday Night Lights” will be back on Friday in Rio Rancho for the first time since Nov. 15, 2019, when the city’s two varsity football teams — destined to meet 15 days later for the Class 6A championship — eliminated Las Cruces schools in quarterfinal contests.
Kickoff is set for 7 at Cleveland High’s Thunderbolt Stadium for the annual City of Vision Championship Game, the title of which was originated by the Observer prior to the teams’ 2010 meeting, just the second time they’d squared off.
Going back to 2019, Cleveland High’s Lightning Bolt Stadium was the site of the Storm’s 21-16 win over Centennial High and Rio Rancho Stadium was where the Rams knocked Las Cruces out of the postseason, 35-0.
After the Storm beat Clovis, 56-43, and the Rams surprised No. 1 Volcano Vista, 48-30, in semifinal road games, the Rams and Storm met for the second time in the 2019 season — a meeting Rio Rancho prep football fans had been anticipating since Cleveland High opened in 2009 — seeing the city’s teams meet for all the marbles.
The Storm eked out a 48-40 victory in that memorable meeting on a frosty Saturday afternoon — a game highlighted on a fourth-and-goal tackle of Rams running back Zach Vigil. Minutes later, the Storm ran out the clock.
All told, the Storm are 9-4 vs. the Rams, and Cleveland has won the last four get-togethers. Cleveland is 3-3 on its home turf vs. the Rams, although there was a seven-year stretch, 2011-17, when the visiting team won each time.
Cleveland coach Heath Ridenour, only the second football coach in the Storm’s history, brings an 80-18 record in his eight-plus seasons; Rio Rancho’s Gerard Pannoni, the sixth head coach since RRHS opened in 1997, is 1-0 in his brief time on the Rams’ sideline.
Tickets could go fast
Tickets to Friday night’s big game cost $5 per person (cash only; no passes accepted; first-come, first-served basis) and, due to spring break, will be sold only on game day, starting at 6 p.m.
Tickets may be purchased at the CHS ticket booth, located in front of the gym, and close at the end of the first quarter.
With allowances for players, coaches, officials, administration and essential personnel, a maximum of 500 tickets per school will be sold — with parents of student-athletes prioritized.