Home / News / Taking to the road worked out just fine for the four visiting schools playing in Saturday afternoon’s New Mexico state football championships, with the home teams an unprecedented 0-4 and begging to differ on the likes of “home sweet home” and “no place like home”

Taking to the road worked out just fine for the four visiting schools playing in Saturday afternoon’s New Mexico state football championships, with the home teams an unprecedented 0-4 and begging to differ on the likes of “home sweet home” and “no place like home”

By Arnie Leshin 
Arnie Leshin

Portales and Saturday’s other state football champions hit the road and went four-for-four as the 2nd seeded Rams made a 6-hour trip to top-seeded, undefeated Bloomfield and left Bobcat Stadium with the 4A title, 23-0, their sixth and first since 2006. It was the initial setback for Bloomfield in a dozen outings, and Portales wound up at 12-1.

Elsewhere, in the 5A final played at 2nd seeded Los Lunas, No. 1 seeded, unbeaten Roswell finished as the only team in the state with an unblemished record via a second-straight, 25-19 win over the Tigers in the state final.The Coyotes won all of their 13 starts and the home team concluded at 10-3. It was the fourth straight win for Roswell over Los Lunas, twice last season and the same this campaign.
In yet another triumph for the visiting team, 2nd seeded Albuquerque Hope Christian made its first appearance in the championship contest and carried off the blue trophy with a 34-24 win at top-seeded Socorro, which finished up at 11-2, the same record as the Huskies, who came back from a 24-12 deficit to shut down the home side via its aggressive defense and offense generated by senior quarterback Collin Evans that scored twice in the third quarter, and once more in the final eight minutes while limiting the Warriors to a third-quarter field goal.
Then there was the 6A final in Rio Rancho, where 3rd seeded Cleveland was also the visitor in the windy and frigid title game played at 4th seeded Rio Rancho High, but a stout defense got the Storm past its city rivals, 48-40. It was the third blue trophy for Cleveland, which lost 33-14 in last year’s final versus Albuquerque La Cueva, and it is now 2-of-3 in the final. It was the first time that the City of Vision schools have met up in the title game, while Cleveland also winning the previous tilt, 35-20, back on November 1.
Overall, the Storm, which won 11 of 13 starts and left the Rams finishing at 8-5, has now triumphed in seven of 11 meetings against Rio Rancho, which has now dropped its first of three title games.
Despite the nasty weather that affected play in all four championship game, Cleveland came away with three touchdowns in the first quarter and Rio Rancho High answered with two of its own, but also failed on one conversion while the Storm was good on all of its extra points. In the third quarter, the Rams responded with two touchdowns, was 2-for-2 via conversions, and forced a 34-34 tie after three quarters when Cleveland turned in one touchdown and kicked the PAT.
And that’s the way it was into the final quarter before a turnout estimated at approximately 6,500 and all bundled up. Then, after the Storm scored twice in the last eight minutes, the Rams cut the gap to 14-6 with a touchdown but a missed point-after, and were a touchdown and 2-point conversion from tying the score with the scoreboard showing 75 seconds, but on fourth down and goal to go, Cleveland senior linebacker ColtenMadison and junior safety Dave Murphy burst through to throw sophomore running back Zach Vigil for a 4-yard and the celebration began for the visitors.
Vigil did rush for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, but Storm’s senior running back Dorian Lewis came away with a remarkable five touchdowns to end his two-year career at Cleveland with 35 tugs for 217 yards. He was once again the go-to-man. He scored on short bursts up the middle from inside the 5, on sideline dashes in which he evaded the defenders, and added a 37-yard run into the end zone following a faked pass that became a handout to Lewis.
It was a thriller that left the home crowd cheering for the tie from five yards out as the seconds ticked down. Earlier, Rams’ quarterback Isaiah Chavez ran the ball in from the 7 that trimmed the lead to 41-40, but the conversion failed for the second time and allowed the Storm to tack on another touchdown and add the 2-point conversion for the eight point advantage. But it was a game that went down to the final seconds before the Cleveland defense and time ran out for the home side.
The Rams had reached the final by sending visiting Las Cruces home with a resounding 35-0 setback, and following it up by taking to the road and stunning top-ranked, previously undefeated Albuquerque Volcano Vista, 48-30, while the Storm eliminated visiting Las Cruces Centennial, 21-6, and winning at 2nd seeded Clovis, 56-13. This was the only title game that wasn’t between first and second seeded teams.
Apparently Portales didn’t mind the long ride, for it also arrived with its own supporters in a contest that just about filled the , stadium. The temperatures had fallen to 35-40 degrees, the wind was blowing and it was just a chilly afternoon, and a disappointing one for the Bobcat fans.
These Rams had a defense that shut down the high-powered Bloomfield offense led by versatile senior quarterback Vincent Marquez, who was the total option football player until this game. But the Bobcats were stymied in their attempt to add another state trophy to the one their carried off in 1966. But after scoring 48.5 points a game, they were shut out for the first time in two years.
The pressure on Marquez pointed to Portales defensive back KellanHightower, who picked off two Marquezpasses, made seven assisted tackles to go with five solos. The Rams allowed but 14 points in their three playoff victories. Their offense began with a first-quarter 40-yard touchdown pass reeled in by senior Roman Gbassagee. Senior Jose Diaz then scored late in the second quarter on an 8-yard quarterback keeper, and Jordan Garcia made the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown toss.
As for the Bobcats, they spent quite some time on the field defensively against the Ram’s ground game, and were no doubt worn down as the contest progressed. That, and the Portalesdefense, made for a great ride home with its blue trophy in hand, and once again a disappointing finale for Bloomfield, which got past a good Grants team, 48-41, and then rolled over Ruidoso, 47-21. Portales, in turn, won big at Lovington, 26-7, and 33-7 at home against Silver.
Hope Christian no doubt had one of the finest defenses in the state, yielding a low of 96 points for the season. The Huskies had first mercy-ruled Cobre, 61-7 in the playoffs, and then shut down 3rd seeded Robertson’s potent offense, 36-0, in Las Vegas. Their losses came versus Portales and Bloomfield.
Socorro had come in with in one defeat, a 9-7 one at Tularosa, and avenged that by disposing of the Wildcats in the playoffs at home, 21-7, after trouncing Raton, 52-15, also at home, but being home for Hope just wasn’t the time and place for a Warrior team that won their lone state title in 1977.
NOTES:  Of the eight teams playing for championships, undefeated Roswell finished up by scoring 616 points while allowing 250. Next in scoring was Bloomfield with 582 and yielding 194. Rio Rancho High turned in 525 points and gave up 261. Cleveland wound up scoring 511 points and was reached for 261. Hope Christian had the leading defense with 96 points yielded while scoring 500 of its own. Los Lunas pieced together 485 points and allowed 195, and Portales went 411-154.
Despite a button up your overcoat, bundle up, gloves, shoes, high warm socks, and a cap or whatever else covers your head, all four games drew well. It was blown away windy, red-nose cold, tough on your feet wet, slippery grounds, but no heavy snow and rain that was forecast.
 And checking out final scores, the 25-19 win for Roswell at Los Lunas was the closest, followed by Cleveland holding off Rio Rancho High, 48-40, Hope Christian’s 34-24 comeback at Socorro, and then there was the surprising 23-0 win for Portales across the state in Bloomfield.

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