RIO RANCHO — After spotting Cibola the game’s first touchdown, Rio Rancho roared back with five straight touchdowns in a 35-7 District 1-6A prep football victory over the Cougars on Friday night.
Sophomore quarterback JJ Arellano, who stepped in at that position when junior Noah Nelson went down with an injury on Sept. 9, showed why he deserved to start again, even with Nelson cleared for action.
Arellano completed all 10 of his first-half passes, good for 233 yards, including scoring bombs of 64 yards and 80 yards, to Traiven Williams and Anthony Raymer, respectively.
“I tried to go out there, make the throws I need to make, get it downfield,” Arellano said. “It feels so good to get a win.”
Arellano scored his team’s first and fourth TDs in the first half on runs of 6 yards and 1 yard.
The only scoring in the second half was on a 9-yard reverse by Williams.
The Cougars (6-2, 1-2 in 1-6A) saw their district title hopes dashed and with senior quarterback Aden Chavez on crutches on the sideline after he broke an ankle in their last game. Cibola rotated quarterbacks against the Rams (6-2, 2-0).
But the pair — Daniel Benham, normally a receiver, and Marcus Wilson — managed only 45 rushing yards and 59 yards through the air.
Devin Dunkin gave the Cougars, who last won at Rio Rancho in 2002, early hope when he rushed for a 6-yard touchdown after Arellano said a “communication” problem caused the Rams first turnover, a fumble.
Being 1-for-13 on third downs didn’t help Cibola’s cause, either.
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As they had done in their victory six days earlier over Atrisco Heritage Academy, Arellano was also the Rams’ leading rusher, with 22 carries for 89 yards.
Nelson did see time on the field, taking over in the fourth quarter when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“I think they put their best athletes out there,” Rams coach Nate Pino said. “That’s what I would do. I think they were athletic; we just put feet on the field and I think it made it difficult for them.
“JJ’s been doing a great job man,” Pino said. “He’s done nothing but exceeds our expectations week to week; Noah’s coming back from an injury — he’s gotta get healthy.”
Both teams were flagged frequently: The Cougars were penalized 17 times for 136 yards; the Rams were walked off for 178 yards on 16 penalties.
“We had a few that could’ve gone either way,” Pino said.
— Gary Herron
CLEVELAND 54, ATRISCO HERITAGE 0: At Nusenda Community Stadium, the top-ranked Storm made sure the Jaguars never had a chance to get out of first gear, rolling to a mercy-rule shortened victory.
Facing an opponent that had already scored 50 or more points on four separate occasions, Cleveland (6-2, 2-0 1-6A) throttled Atrisco at every turn, limiting the Jaguars to 89 yards of total offense in a game that ended at the 4:00 mark of the third quarter.
Storm coach Robert Garza couldn’t help but notice the carnage West Mesa wreaked on the defense of fellow Class 6A title hopeful La Cueva one night prior in an 89-62 Bears victory that set a single-game New Mexico record for total points in an 11 man game.
“As soon as we saw the (La Cueva-West Mesa) score last night, (we said) this can’t happen to us,” Garza said. “We had a good week of practice. We had a bye week last week, so we were pretty hungry to get back on the field.”
The Storm left no doubt as to who was the superior team by establishing a running clock with a 35-point first quarter that featured three touchdown passes by senior quarterback Evan Wysong. The highlight of those was a 55-yard bomb that hit Nic Trujillo in stride to give Cleveland a 28-0 lead.
“It was nice,” Garza said of the throw. “I don’t know if it was the prettiest of the season, but it was a good one.”
Meanwhile, the Jaguars (5-4, 0-3) struggled to generate any meaningful offense while rotating three quarterbacks under center. All of the above — Dean Marquez, Manny Sedillo and Landon Griego — combined to complete just eight of 29 attempts while being consistently harrassed by the Cleveland front. Meanwhile, a Marquez interception gave the Storm a short field to help set up their third touchdown of the opening period.
“We flew around,” Garza said. “We didn’t miss many tackles. That’s kind of been something the past few games we’ve had an issue with.”
The Jaguars didn’t help their cause on special teams, as a pair of fumbled snaps on punts provided Cleveland with prime field position, while a long punt return in the second half set the stage for Harris Mbueha’s game-ending four-yard scoring run . It was about as complete a performance as Garza could have wanted.
“They’ve (Atrisco) been scoring a lot of points this year,” Garza said. “We’ve been harping at our defense. We’ve got to tackle, we’ve got to be better defensively. I’m not completely surprised because I know what our defense is capable of. But on the other hand, it was a great performance by those guys.”
— Tristen Critchfield
CLEVELAND 54, ATRISCO HERITAGE 0 (Final, 3rd quarter)
Score: C, Andres Armijo 10 pass from Evan Wysong (Jeff Bem kick); C, Nic Trujillo 14 run (Bem kick); C, Trujillo 5 pass from Wysong (Bem kick); C, Trujillo 55 pass from Wysong (Bem kick); C, Andres Aguirre 5 run (Bem kick); C, Josh Perry 3 run (Bem kick); C, Harris Mbueha 4 run (run failed); C, Mbueha 9 run. Rec.: C 6-2, 2-0 1-6A, A 5-4, 0-3.
First downs: C7; A 8 Rushes yards: C 19-132; A 13-5. passing: C 5-7-0-119; A 8-29-1-84. Total offense: C251; A 89 Punts avg.: A 4-28.2; C0-0. Penalties yards: C 8-90; A4-40. Fumbles-lost: C1-0; A 1-1.
SO FRIDAY NIGHT: Rio Grande won its second game of the season as the Ravens (2-5) mercy ruled Shiprock 56-6 at Milne Stadium. …
In Bernalillo, the Wildcats had a 19-point second quarterer, including a blocked punt that led to a short touchdown run to take control, and the Wildcats (2-6) posted a 33-7 victory over the Spartans (2-5 ) in a District 4/6-4A opener. …
At Wilson Stadium, Los Alamos (4-4, 1-0) whipped Manzano (0-8, 0-2) in a District 2/5-5A matchup, 57-12. …
In Santa Fe, Los Lunas (5-4, 3-0 in 5-6A) rolled Santa Fe (1-7, 0-2), scoring 45 first-half points in a 51-0 victory. …
At Bulldog Bowl, Class 5A’s second-ranked Artesia (6-2) opened District 4-5A play by scoring the game’s first 22 points as the Bulldogs dominated No. 1-ranked Roswell (6-2) in a 46-28 victory. Goddard (6-2, 1-0) downed Mayfield (4-4) in the other 4-5A opener, 42-28 at Wool Bowl in Roswell. …
Class 2A’s top two teams met in Texico, and No. 1 Jal (9-0, 3-0 in 4-2A) escaped with a 41-35 victory over the Wolverines (5-3, 1-1). …
In Farmington, the Scorpions (4-4, 2-0 in 2/5-6A) essentially ended Sandia’s playoff hopes in a 43-7 win over the Matadors (3-5, 0-3). …
In Tucumcari, Hope Christian (4-4-1, 2-1 in 4-3A) rebounded from a tough double-overtime home loss last week to Dexter with a 44-0 shutout victory over the Rattlers (0-8, 0- 2). …
In Pojoaque, Moriarty (6-2) won a District 2-4A opener, 55-0 over the Elks (0-7).