There will certainly be detours and forks in the road along the way, but here’s a general road map of some of the top matchups during the 2022 prep football season for metro-area teams:
(Click here for the composite 2022 metro prep football schedule.)
WEEK 1: There is an outstanding trifecta for a curtain raiser on Friday, including five of the top seven teams in the Class 6A MaxPreps.com preseason rankings in action locally.
La Cueva and Rio Rancho staged a thrilling double-overtime duel in last year’s state semifinals, and the second-ranked Bears will open on the Rams’ new turf field to face No. 4Rio Rancho. A few miles away, no. 5 Centennial visits defending 6A state champion Cleveland, the No. 1 team in the 6A preseason rankings. At Nusenda Community Stadium, No. 7 Las Cruces plays Volcano Vista.
The season technically opens with four games on Thursday, including Billy Cobos at Valley facing his nephew John and Bernalillo, a game that will be played at Cleveland. Bernalillo’ new turf won’t be ready in time for Week 1, hence the change in venue.
Los Lunas’ debut as a 6A program has the Tigers on the road against their most heated rival, Belen. Manzano’s debut in 5A has the Monarchs on the road Saturday at the Field of Dreams against Mayfield.
8-Man newcomer Legacy Academy is at Melrose in the program’s first varsity game.
WEEK 2: The Cleveland-La Cueva matchup at Wilson Stadium is certainly a potential state championship game preview, and the best matchup on the board in Week 2.
There is a top-notch 4A showdown on Saturday, as Moriarty visits Albuquerque Academy. These two met in the state quarterfinals last November.
WEEK 3: La Cueva’s brute of a first-half schedule continues unabated here with a Friday visit from Centennial at Wilson Stadium. In Los Lunas, the Tigers welcome another 6A newcomer, Farmington, which was in the Final Four in 5A a season ago.
Academy entertains Hope Christian on Saturday.
WEEK 4: The top game has La Cueva at home at Wilson against Volcano Vista on a Friday night, but there is a second pairing worth noting, that being 5A power Roswell High at Los Lunas.
Cleveland, which also has two road games in West Texas, visits Las Cruces High on Saturday afternoon at the Field of Dreams.
Albuquerque Academy last season played its first-ever home night game against Bernalillo; the Chargers are going to give it another go this year, on a Friday night against Bloomfield.
WEEK 5: Two potential state champions square off in Rio Rancho as Artesia plays at Cleveland on Friday night. In Los Lunas, the Tigers play host to La Cueva. The Tigers are the preseason No. 3 in Class 6A.
Bernalillo is at Moriarty in 4A; the Pintos last year beat the Spartans 7-6, with a missed extra point the difference, and both these teams were in the 2021 playoffs.
WEEK 6: The middle week in the 11-week regular season is a relatively quiet one; among 6A programs, Los Lunas-Cibola on Saturday at Community Stadium is arguably the most attractive matchup.
In 4A, Taos is at Bernalillo in what could be a solid game.
WEEK 7: District action begins in 1-6A and 2-6A, including Eldorado-La Cueva at Wilson, plus Volcano Vista at Cleveland.
Outside of district, Goddard, another 5A contender, is at Belen. And St. Pius and Academy renew their rivalry on Saturday afternoon at the Academy.
WEEK 8: This week features the most teams (six) on their bye week, including Cleveland and La Cueva. On Friday, Cibola-Volcano Vista and St. Pius at Moriarty are headline games.
WEEK 9: One of the most interesting wrinkles of the most recent classification and realignment is that Academy and Bernalillo were put into a four-team district with defending 4A state champ Lovington, plus Portales.
The Wildcats are in the area Friday, at Bernalillo.
Cibola at Rio Rancho is often a compelling game, and the Cougars and Rams get after it in Week 9.
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WEEK 10: This penultimate week of the regular season features one of the busiest Friday nights on the calendar in terms of volume of games.
Among them: Volcano Vista at Rio Rancho, Cleveland at Cibola (Community), La Cueva-Sandia, St. Pius at Silver (the Colts are in a league with the Sartans, Valencia and Grants), Academy visiting Lovington and Hope Christian at Ruidoso .
WEEK 11: Of course, Rio Rancho-Cleveland is the one to watch as the regular seasons comes to an end. The Rams and Storm meet at Cleveland for the first time since the Storm beat Rio Rancho for the 6A crown last November.
Clovis is at Los Lunas in a District 4-6A season-ender as former Belen coach Andrew McCraw returns to Valencia County.
There are several other potentially influential district games, including Academy at Bernalillo, Moriarty at Taos and Farmington at La Cueva.