At Rio Rancho Stadium Friday night, Hawks senior quarterback Elliot Paskett-Bell threw for 266 yards, with one touchdown pass, but it was his running that kept the Rams’ defense off-balance.
His two second-half TD runs staved off a late Rams rally for a 34-22 Hawks win.
Hoping to remain unbeaten in District 1-6A play heading into their showdown Friday at first-place Cleveland, the Rams led 8-6 at the end of the first quarter, thanks to a safety and a 40-yard pass play from sophomore Quarterback JJ Arellano to Traiven Williams.
The Hawks (7-2,, 2-1) scored their first points on Paskett-Bell’s 41-yard TD pass to Aden Cardiel as the opening quarter ended.
The ensuing kickoff went into the end zone and on the Rams’ first play of the second period, Arellano found Anthony Raymer open over the middle and he out-ran the Hawks’ secondary for a TD and a 15-6 Rams’ lead.
By halftime, the Hawks held a 20-15 lead, thanks to 3- and 2-yard scoring runs by Alijah Gonzales, wo rushed for 115 yards on 26 carries.
The Rams received the second half kickoff and on their first play from scrimmage, Gabe Pino – whose poor decision on a long first-quarter punt saw him tackled in the end zone for a safety – picked off an Arellano pass, and the Hawks had it at the Ram 25.
On the next play, Paskett-Bell galloped 25 yards to paydirt to make it 27-15.
The Rams (6-3, 2-1) kept it interesting, as Arellano tossed a 36-yard touchdown pass to Donevyn Culkin, cutting the Hawks’ lead to 27-22 heading into the fourth quarter. Arellano was again the Rams’ leading rusher, with 100 yards on 27 carries.
On a long march downfield, the Rams’ hopes soon faded, as they came up short on a fourth-and-1 play, leading to yet another Paskett-Bell touchdown.
The Hawks went 79 yards on their final drive, with three of the final four plays on Paskett-Bell bootleg runs – two to the right for a total of 16 yards. And then one to the left, with him racing 22 yards and untouched for an insurance TD.
“It was really nice to get this W. Our defense is playing great and the guys put their trust in me,” Paskett-Bell said.
“They’re definitely the best competition that we’ve faced,” Paskett-Bell said of the Rams.
First-year Rams coach Nate Pino was miffed by his team’s performance in the red zone.
“We were in the red zone three times and came out with zero points,” he said. “That’s the difference. I thought we played well defensively. They’re a good offensive football team, and we’ve just got to finish drives.”
That won’t be any easier Friday at Lightning Bolt Stadium, the way the Storm have been playing on both sides of the ball, and who have beaten the Rams the last seven times they’ve met, including the championship games in 2019 and ’21.