Last Update: Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016
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Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016

STAR OF THE MATCH: Rio Rancho senior Leilani Bakerscored the only two goals of the game Saturday.

Rio Rancho girls blank Carlsbad, likely improve state playoff seed


The Rio Rancho High girl’s soccer team took a major step in improving its seeding for the state tournament Saturday, beating visiting Carlsbad 2-0.

Leilani Baker scored two first-half goals, one on a header and one off a corner kick, and the Lady Rams made it stand up the rest of the way.

The victory improved Rio Rancho’s record to 11-4-3 overall and should impress the state selection committee, since Carlsbad cane into the game with a gaudy 14-2-1 mark.

“It was good for us to see a team from the southern part of the state,” Rio Rancho coach Uwe Balzis said. “Winning should really help us with our seeding.”

With two district games left (at Cibola on Thursday and at home on Saturday against Piedra Vista), still could win the 1-6A title with two wins and two Cibola losses. The Lady Rams seem to be peaking at the right time – Rio Rancho is undefeated (3-0-2) since posting a 2-1 double overtime victory over and Cibola on Oct. 1.

The game was played in Carlsbad end of the field about 80 percent of the time as the Cavegirls couldn’t generate any attack against the Lady Ram defense. Carlsbad managed just two shots on goal, one that may have not had enough energy to make the net even if Rio Rancho goalie Alyssa Kellogg didn’t gather it in.

The second was a strong shot from Cavegirls Tesa Graham, which could have tied the game with 22 minutes left in the half.
Graham came into the game having scored 18 girls for the Cavegirls this season.

Baker’s  header came with 28:45 left in the half; her second goal hit the net with 7:50 left before intermission.

Carlsbad coach Misty Long changed goalkeepers at halftime, switching from sophomore Myah Chacon to freshman Patti Oliver. It had nothing to do with Chacon’s performance, though; it was more to try to light a spark after what Long thought was a lack of effort in the first 40 minutes.

“The two goals were not the fault of the keeper at all,” Long said. “We didn’t hustle on two balls, and they scored goals. You can’t do that when you play good teams like Rio Rancho.”

Basic unofficial statistics paint the picture. Rio Rancho had six shots actually on goal to Carlsbad’s two; the Lady Rams had five corner kicks after shots went off Cavegirl defenders and out of play compared to one for Carlsbad. Rio Rancho also had one penalty kick, and Carlsbad had none.

Instead of being played on turf in the Rio Rancho football stadium, this game was contested on a rough, hard grass field because of a 1,000-plus runner cross country meet. The result was several higher-than-normal bounces on the hard field that made it difficult for either team to establish a consistent offensive flow.

But it may have been a good thing, actually, as the conditions were more like what the field will be like at the state tournament.

Long brought her team north on an up-and-back-home trip to to find out where here team stacked up against unfamiliar competition as the state tournament approaches. As she told her team after the loss, “We’ve got some work to do.”

The 12-team single elimination state tournament begins on the weekend of Oct. 28-29. The top four seeds get a bye; the betters seeds (Nos. 5-8) will host games that weekend.

Quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will be played on consececutive at the Bernalillo Soccer Complex starting Nov. 3. For more information on the state tournament, including ticket prices, click here.

Friday, Oct. 14, 2016

FIRST PLAY: Volcano Vista quarterback Dillon Gassoway (6) fumbled the opening stap. The ball was recovered by Cailon Bailon (23) and the rout was on.

Rio Rancho dominates Hawks 69-14; top-ranked Rams stay undefeated


What’s the difference between a 7-0 record and 5-1 record? In District 1-6A this football season, it’s more than just one game.

For starters, it’s 49 points.

That’s what undefeated and top-ranked Rio Rancho won by on Friday, leaving no doubt in dominating visiting Volcano Vista 63-14.

The game, to flip the old cliché, wasn’t even as close as the score indicates. The Rams scored on seven of its eight first-half possessions, led 28-0 less than seven minutes into the game and 49-14 at halftime. That margin meant the entire second half was played with a running clock.

Volcano Vista coach Chad Wallin has seen this before. The Rams went 13-0 (including playoffs) in 2014 en route to the state championship; the Rams’ archrival, Cleveland High, did the same thing last year, so he knows what it’s like to be on the short end of the score with City of Vision schools.

But this one wasn’t even close.

“We got mauled,” he said. “When you’re down 21-0 before you can breathe, and they were just like sharks in the water. They smell blood, and they attack..”

Most coaches say they concentrate on their own team and don’t talk about the intangibles like the opponents’ record. But Ridenour admitted there was an outside motivation for the Rams, and it wasn’t the Hawks’ 5-1 before Friday.

“They came here in 2012 and ended our No. 1 ranking in the second round (of the playoffs,)” he said. “A lot of these guys were young and remember that game, and they weren’t willing to let that happen again.”

There were only two negatives in the Rams’ performance, and they are minor indeed. One is deep pass defense – three long bombs set up Volcano Vistas two second-quarter touchdowns, both to senior Hawk receiver David Cormier.

The second is the Rams could never get a 50-point lead, which would have ended the game under the state’s “mercy rule.” That was in part to a fourth quarter that was essentially contested by backups as both coaches substituted liberally.

“We had a hard time with how big and physical they are up front,”Wallin said. “Their defensive front was the best we’ve seen all year, and we’ve some pretty good folks with Mayfield and Eldorado. But those  guys we just played are pretty damned good up front.” 

The Hawks, now 0-1 in district, basically abandoned any attempts at running by the second quarter. And with good reason: The Hawks “gained” minus-2 yards on the ground in the first half and managed just 43 for the entire game.

The only success Volcano Vista had was on a few long passes, two of which came in the second quarter to cut the margin to 35-7. The first came on fourth-and-20 from the shadow of its own goal posts after a Rio Rancho penalty gave the Hawks a chance to quickly get out of punt formation.

That led to Cormier’s first TD reception.

Josh Foley scored four touchdowns and rushed for 109 yards – all in the first half – for Rio Rancho. The game was so lopsided he watched the second half in street clothes.

Quarterback Nic Little played into the fourth quarter and accounted for four touchdowns, rushing for three and throwing a throwing 15-yard scoring pass to Derrick Reyes. He was also a perfect 9-for-9 on extra point attempts.

Speaking of perfect, Rio Rancho scored all eight times it got inside the Volcano Vista in the so-called “red zone.” 

“I keep saying (after every game) that it was as good as we can play, but they keep surprising me and getting better every week,” Ridenour said. “Every week they just keep stomping and stomping forward. I’m really proud of their maturity and not letting the typical 16-year-old mentality get in their way. They’re playing like young adults and I appreciate that.”

Ridenour showed his appreciation by telling his team they had Saturday off, which brought a roar that no doubt could be heard outside the locker room.

“Suddenly I’m the most popular man in America,” Ridenour joked.

Rio Rancho has next weekend off before returning to play at Cibola on Oct. 29. The Rams close out the season by hosting district newcomer Piedra Vista on Nov. 4.

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016

STRETCHING OUT: Cleveland wide receiver Justin Ainsworth (9) makes a diving attempt  at a catch while being covered by Javier Lopez   (10) of Cibola. The Storm bounced back from a loss to arch rival Rio Rancho with a 35-14 victory on Thursday night.

Storm storm  back from loss
to even District 1-6A record

To be updated with additional photos, information


ALBUQUERQUE -- It was probably the fastest hangover cure in history.

Less than a week after losing to archrival Rio Rancho, the Cleveland Storm struggled early on in Thursday’s District 1-6A road game against Cibola at Community Stadium. But there is a reason the Cleveland mascot is a lightning bolt.

Faster than you can say “possible upset,” Cleveland scored 14 points in 14 seconds and held off the Cougars 35-14.

Nico Papadopoulos rushed for three touchdowns and 125 yards on 26 carries as Cleveland, 7-1, snapped Cibola’s three-game winning streak.

It had all the appearances of a trap game for the Storm: A tough loss to their archrival, a short week to prepare, and seemingly more marching band members in the stands than fans. 

And after one quarter it appeared the Cougars, 3-5, might make a game of it. Cibola drove to the Cleveland 12 midway through the opening quarter, only to have consecutive incomplete passes and a fumble on fourth down end the drive.

The Storm finally began to assert itself late in the period, and broke the scoreless tie four seconds into the second quarter on Papadopoulos’ first TD run. 

Cibola fumbled on its first play on the ensuing drive, and Cleveland quickly converted the turnover immediately. On its first play from scrimmage, quarterback Angelo Trujillo hit Daniel Johnson on a 27-yard touchdown pass.

Cleveland led 21-6 at halftime, with a 1-yard Papadopoulos TD run sandwiched between field goals from Cibola kicker Caleb Mancini. His first boot was from 40 yards out and had a good 10 yards to spare.

Cibola got back into the game in the third quarter after a disastrous opening offensive series by the Storm. Two 15-yard penalties on the same play – with officials saying one was during live play and the other was a dead-ball foul – and a quarterback sack left the Storm at its own 1.

Cibola converted the good field position into its only touchdown of the night, a 10-yard scoring pass from Gannon Chavez to Kazy Martin. A two-point conversion pass from Chavez to cut the margin to 21-14.

The Cougar touchdown came after an apparent fumble by Cibola was nullified when referees ruled a receiver was down. It was one of many calls, including an apparent interception later in the game and several borderline hits out of bounds, which left Cleveland coaches shaking their heads.

If anything, the adversity seemed to fire up the Cleveland defense even more. Part of Cibola’s strategy was to give Chavez the freedom to roll out and choose whether to run or pass, but the Storm held the quarterback in check throughout with a ferocious pass rush throughout.

Cleveland recorded six sacks, and when it couldn’t get to Chavez they constantly forced him into hurried or off-balance throws.

“He was running for his life out there,” Cibola coach Roderick Williams said.

Cibola had two possessions where a touchdown could have tied the game, but Chavez was sacked on each one.

The Storm finally put the game away in the fourth quarter with two touchdowns, the last of which was a 14-yard run by Papadopoulos with 5:10 left.

Unofficially, the two teams combined for 72 passes.
The Storm return to action a week on Oct. 21 with a home game against district newcomer Piedra Vista, then have a week off before closing on the road at Volcano Vista.

The Hawks, who have yet to play a district game, play at Rio Rancho tonight at 7. Volcano Vista comes into the game with a 5-1 overall record against the No. 1 ranked Rams (7-0 overall).

Click here for district standings

Friday, Oct. 7, 2016

THE CLINCHER: Josh Foley breaks through the Cleveland defense at the start of his 28-yard touchdown run that sealed Rio Rancho's 42-28 victory over archrival Cleveland.

Fantastic Foley lifts
No. 1 Rams past CHS

Senior runner scores 4 TD's as
Rams hold off on No. 2 Storm


Most teams that throw three interceptions, rack up almost 150 yards in penalties and surrender two fourth-down touchdown passes aren’t going to win the game, especially when it is played on the road.

But most teams don’t have a player as good as Josh Foley.

The Rio Rancho senior scored four touchdowns and rushed for 153 yards as the top-ranked Rams held off No. 2 Cleveland 42-28 Friday night in what was arguably the most important regular-season game ever between the two teams.

Foley scored on TD runs of 1, 68 and 28 yards, the last two in the fourth quarter. The last one came with 1:43 left to finally seal the deal for Rio Rancho against a stubborn Cleveland defense. 

Foley also scored on a 45-yard catch and run on a pass from quarterback Nic Little in the first quarter. 

The Rams’ quarterback threw two other touchdown passes of 38 and 32 yards, both to Austin Hise. The first allowed the Rams to tie the g amen early at 7-7; the second opened the second-half scoring and allowed Rio Rancho to stretch its halftime lead to 27-14.

Little also rushed for 131 yards to help offset his three interceptions.

Both teams entered the game with 6-0 records and were averaging better than 40 points per game. And 57 seconds in, pre-game jokes about “the first team to 50 wins” seemed a possibility.

Cleveland quarterback Angelo Trujillo also had four touchdowns, one running and three passing. All three scoring passes were to junior receiver Justin Ainsworth, son of former New Mexico Highlands star quarterback Brian Ainsworth.

Trujillo’s 57-yard jaunt on the second play of the game gave Cleveland and initial 7-0 lead. But the Rams roared back with the next 21 points of the half on the first Hise TD reception, Foley’s one-yard run and h his TD pass. 

Cleveland narrowed the margin to 21-14 with 2:18 left in the half on the first Trujillo-to-Ainsworth scoring pass, a short one of two-yards. And when the Storm defense turned back Rio Rancho on a fourth-down play deep in their own territory just before intermission, the momentum seemed to be with the Storm.

Enter the Rio Rancho defense. The Rams did not allow Cleveland to get a first down until the fourth quarter, and even that came on a penalty.

In the meantime, Hise posted his second touchdown catch with 1:06 left in the third quarter and the Rams were up 13 points after the extra point kick was missed.

Cleveland got within six points on Ainsworth’s 26-yard touchdown catch, but Foley responded with his 68-yard scoring run. A two-point RRHS conversion made the margin 35-21.

The Storm stormed back, with the virtually unstoppable Ainsworth scoring again. With exactly five minutes left, Cleveland was within one score at 35-28.

Since suddenly the predicted offensive shootout was back on, Cleveland coach Heath Ridenour rightly gambled on an onside kick. When Rio Rancho recovered it left the Rams with a short field, and Little converted a key fourth-and-one play to keep the drive alive and set up Foley’s capper.

The loss ended a 19-game Cleveland winning streak dating back to a 42-28 loss to district rival Cibola in the 2014 playoffs. It also marks the sixth consecutive year the visiting team has won the Rio Rivalry.

By winning the District 1-6A opener, Rio Rancho would seem to have a leg up on the league title. The two city schools have combined to win the last eight District 1 championships, whether competing in Class 5A or 6A.

Cleveland won the Class 6A state title with a perfect 13-0 record; Rio Rancho did the exact same thing the year before. Though it is a newer school, Cleveland won the city’s first state football title with a 13-0 mark in 2011.

The Storm, 6-1, doesn’t have much time to look back at what might have been. Cleveland plays aforementioned Cibola on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Community Stadium in Albuquerque. The Cougars are only 3-4 overall are 1-0 in 1-6A play after blanking district newcomer Piedra Vista 21-0 in Farmington on Friday.

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