State Football Championships: Storm vs. Rams

Ultimate Rivalry Game: Cleveland Bests Rio Rancho for State Title
Posted on 11/30/2019
Dr. Cleveland presents 6A FB trophy to Coach Ridenour as Sr. Tyler Blodgett cheersIt turned out to be a Stormy weekend in Rio Rancho -- and we aren't talking the weather. 

The #3-seeded Cleveland Storm and #4 Rio Rancho Rams traded touchdowns for nearly 48 thrilling minutes, with the state title on the line.  But in the end, the Rams fell one goal line stand short, and the Storm took home their third Class 6A state title in ten years.  

Storm's Tre Watson runs a caught pass in for a scoreIt was the first time ever in a major team sport that Rio Rancho's two high schools had played each other for the ultimate prize, and it was everything a great championship game should be and more!   
At the outset, it looked like the Rams -- who have two state championships of their own in this decade -- might be ready to make a statement.  On the third play of the game, the Rams intercepted a Storm pass and turned it into seven points.  But the Storm quickly countered with a TD of their own, and tacked on a couple more to put the Rams back on the ropes .... temporarily. 
Rams quarterback Isiah Chavez dives for a scoreRio Rancho came roaring back with a couple of scores of their own to get the game to within a point.  A last-seconds Storm score ended the first half, but it took the Rams less than two minutes in the third quarter to pull back even.  It was that kind of game. 

Late in the fourth quarter, the Rams -- trailing 48-40 -- had a golden opportunity to tie the game again, with multiple chances to score from within the Storm five-yard line.  But the Storm defense rallied to keep Rio Rancho out of the end zone and capture the blue trophy. 

The Storm team and coaches pose with the banner and trophyThe Storm won its first football state title in 2011, just two seasons after Cleveland High opened, and captured a second in 2015.  The Rams were state champions in 2014 and 2016.  

Playoff action:

Both teams earned byes in the first round of the state playoffs, but then had to play their way into the state finals the hard way.  Cleveland narrowly defeated #6 seed Centennial HS in the quarterfinals.  They then bested #2 seed Clovis on the road at Leon Harms Stadium -- one of the state's toughest venues -- in a thrilling, back-and-forth high-scoring showdown, 56-43.  

In their quarterfinal matchup, Rio Rancho surprised many by completely dominating #5 Las Cruces on the road at the Field of Dreams -- another one of the state's toughest venues.  They then took down previously undefeated and #1 seeded Volcano Vista 48-30 to earn the chance to host the Storm.  

Rams and Storm athletes frequently face off for team and individual state titles in sports such as track and field, wrestling, and cross country.  There have been several semifinal matchups between Rams and Storm teams in baseball, football, and basketball.  But this is the first time a Rio Rancho High team and Cleveland High team have played each other in a state championship game in a major sport -- thus guaranteeing the City of Vision a state title.