Two for the Show: Rio Rancho and Cleveland try to cap decade of dominance

Feature photo: Cleveland’s Dorian Lewis (2) and the Storm play rival Rio Rancho on Saturday for the 6A state championship (courtesy of Marty Saiz).

By Sebastian Noel

For Enchantment Sports

And then there were two.

And what a twosome.

It’s fitting that the last 6A championship game of the decade features the
decade’s two premier programs — Rio Rancho (8-4) and Cleveland (10-2).

Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Rio Rancho High.

Consistency and excellence are less than six miles apart in the City of

The teams have combined for 183 wins in the decade. The city of Rio Rancho has had a team with at least nine wins in every year of the decade.

Storm coach Heath Ridenour and Rams coach David Howes have had plenty of big battles before, but never for a state championship.

Previously when I asked them for a highlight of this storied rivalry, both have erred on the side of “all the games are special,” although Howes couldn’t help but bring up the 35-0 win his Rams recorded over Cleveland in 2013.

The Storm have won eight of 11 meetings with the Rams this decade and have outscored them 337-255 in those head-to-head meetings.

For Cleveland, last week’s win at Clovis in the playoff semifinals, was the school’s 100th victory of the decade.

“That’s crazy,” Ridenour said hitting the century mark. “That type of success is extremely rare and unexpected. Our kids have bought into our process year in and year out.”sammy c with web

On to Saturday. The quarterback position likely features the best matchup of the day.

During the regular season, Cleveland junior quarterback Jeff Davidson threw for just under 200 yards per game. He possesses, from my armchair, the best long ball in the state.

Rio Rancho senior Isaiah Chavez is the state’s premiere dual-threat quarterback, perhaps the best since St. Pius standout Drew Ortiz.

Isaiah Chavez
Isaiah Chavez

Chavez has thrown for 1,970 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also ran for 1,209 yards and  16 touchdowns.

There is no way to give an advantage at this position to either side; these quarterbacks are both as good as it gets.

At receiver, in my opinion, there will be one Division 1 receiver out on the field Saturday and that is Cleveland’s Tre Watson.

Listed at 6 feet, 5 inches and 210 pounds, Watson has only played in a handful of games this season due to injury.

But he has shown he is at times the state’s number one mismatch on the field.

Defensively, I would argue it is impossible to pick a clear favorite. The Rams have played by far a more difficult schedule so that would tilt the “points allowed” statistic in favor of Cleveland.

Rio Rancho has very good defenders at every level of the defense.
Senior Linebacker Tyler Woisin has had a great season which includes four sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss.

No moment has been too big for the Rams sophomore defensive back Lucas Lucero, whose three interceptions include one against La Cueva superstar receiver Connor O’Toole.The Book

Late in Rio Rancho’s 48-30 semifinal win against previously unbeaten Volcano Vista, Lucero delivered a hit to quarterback Diego Pavia that likely has him still counting
his stars.

Cleveland has standouts of its own. Senior linebacker Tres Villalpando was outstanding during the regular season, but he has been a machine in the playoffs.

And fellow linebackers Colten Madison and Phattboy Loveless are QB nightmares.

Then there is Dorian Lewis on offense.

The senior tailback has had a phenomenal return from injury season. His
four-touchdown performance in Cleveland’s 56-43 semifinal win over Clovis was something to behold.

Rio Rancho counters with sophomore running back Zach Vigil, who has rushed for 17 touchdowns.

Saturday’s game will not only crown a “program of the decade,” it will also showcase the two programs that — with the help of La Cueva last year — have put an end to southern dominance in big school football.

Who wins?

I had Cleveland as my number one team during my season preview, so I see no reason to
lose faith in the Storm now.

But I was curious what others who know a lot more about football than me
thought, so I asked them.

Who did they pick?

Cleveland logo


Cal Fullerton, Clovis
Rod Williams, Cibola
Judge Chavez, Valley
Bruce Binkley, Den Norte


Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 8.29.20 PM


Phillip Martinez, Manzano
Anthony Ansotigue, West Mesa
Aaron Ocampo, Centennial
Chad Adcox, Sandia


PROUD PAPA: One guy who certainly knows both programs well is one of the main reasons Howes and Ridehour are in their current coaching positions.

“Both Dave and Heath have done super job with their programs,” says Bruce Carver, who retired last year after a decade as district administrator for Rio Rancho Public Schools. “I’m proud of both and I think a lot of both of them.

“They have a lot of similarities, some differences. Both are really passionate, football guys. They eat it, breath it and spend so much with it. They both have put good staffs together and have the ability put people in right spots and run entire program so well.”

So, who wins Bruce?

“What’s tough, is for 10 years I have been totally neutral,” he said with a chuckle. “So I’m still used to it. I have too many friends on both sides.

“Of course, my wife (Sherri Carver) is principal at Rio Rancho High,” Carver continued with another laugh. “But I can’t make a pick. I’m just so proud of both programs.”

This trophy was given weekly during the season, but there is still one more to be awarded — this time for Player of the Year.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Besides the blue trophy being up for grabs on Saturday, another award is also hanging in the balance.

Saturday’s winner could very well determine the Dreamstyle/Enchantment Sports Metro Player of the Year award.

There are a handful of candidates in the running, and at least two — Lewis and Chavez — will be on the field on Saturday.

A winner will be announced on Dec. 5.

If you would like to make a nomination for player of the year, email

Sebastian Noel

Sebastian Noel is a play-by-play announcer for ProView Networks and host of “Local Focus with Sebastian Noel,” airing weeknights at 10 p.m., on ProView.

Noel, also serves as the on-field reporter during the My50TV game of the week during the football season and is a frequent contributor to Enchantment Sports.


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