Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

6A football: Rams rally, Top La Cueva in the OT thriller

The Rio Rancho Rams celebrate after defeating La Cueva, 35-34, in double overtime in the Class 6A semifinals at Rio Rancho High School on Friday night. (MIKE SANDOVAL / For the Journal) RIO RANCHO – While the first iteration of Rio Rancho-La Cueva was a bit of a chub, the rematch was an absolute thrill.

The second-seeded Rams (9-1) overcame their best offensive player’s injury at the end of the game and bounced back from a 14-point half-time deficit to beat the third-seeded Bears in double overtime 35-34 at the Rio Rancho Stadium Friday night.

Rio Rancho will face rivals Cleveland in the state finals next Saturday.

“When I was younger, I got to play the All-American baseball games in Florida in front of a big crowd, but nothing like it,” said Rio Rancho quarterback Dominick Priddy. “Nothing that has gone back and forth so much. We literally hit the ground 21-7. Everyone lost hope in us. We came out halfway with our hearts and never gave up. “Rio Rancho’s Traiven Williams II, left, gets the go-ahead as he is defended by La Cueva’s Colt Mangino at Rio Rancho High School on Friday night. (MIKE SANDOVAL / For the magazine)

The Bears (10-2) had won nine straight wins since the 50-0 shellac run by the Rams in late August.

After forcing a three-and-off on Rio Rancho’s first possession, Gabriel Buie of the Bears scored a 72-yard burst in his team’s first offensive game.

This TD was followed by two more, as La Cueva was firmly in command at halftime.

Also Rio Rancho star running back, UNM sign Zach Vigil, went down with a rib injury in the beginning of the second quarter and never returned.

If Rio Rancho intended to change the dynamic it would have to be done quickly and with other players emerging in key roles.

“We talked about it at halftime, look, we were 20-0 against Cleveland and lost,” said Rio Rancho head coach Gerry Pannoni. “We’re 21-7 behind, we can do it, you have to believe that.”

The momentum began to shift at Rio Rancho’s first run of the second half. After stopping a deep La Cueva Drive at their own 20, the Rams marched 80 yards to cut the 14 point deficit in half.

Two pass interference penalties extended possession and Devin Rice finished the drive with a 12 yard scoring run.

Rio Rancho then performed a perfect onside kick to keep the ball. The game timing drive lasted 10 games, with Priddy being able to tie the contest after a 7-yard TD scamper.

La Cueva missed a 27-yard field on her first possession in the fourth quarter, and Rio Rancho’s green TD drive stalled at the one-yard line when Priddy’s fourth down pass was knocked out.

Rio Rancho had one more chance to win in regulation, but a 40 yard field goal attempt went far to the left to force extra minutes.

The drama continued in overtime.

La Cueva easily scored on his first OT possession when QB Aidan Armenta faced Ian Sanchez on a 10-yard TD throw.

Rio Rancho reacted even faster when Priddy overcame a bad snap over his head, crawled left, and found Java’s Maria on the 10-yard TD throw.

The Rams got the ball first to start the second overtime, scoring a goal in just two games. Priddy found Traiven Williams II from seven meters away. The successful point afterwards brought the Rams 35:28 into the lead.

La Cueva wasted no time scoring two games when Brandon Cabaniss hit the ball from a meter away. However, the Bears foregoing one point at a time, opting for the two-point conversion and victory. In attempting, Armenta was quickly put under pressure by the Rams defense and his pass was incomplete to end the game.
The extent of Vigil’s injury or its availability for the next week was not immediately known.

No. 2 RIO RANCHO 35, No. 3 LA CUEVA 34 (2 OT)
The cave 14 | 7 | 0 | 0 | 7 | 6 – 34
Rio Rancho 0 | 7 | 14 | 0 | 7 | 7-35

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