Three Josh Foley touchdowns (and a few by other guys like Zeneth Klövenas, shown at left), stifling defense, and a 22-point victory. Ho-hum, another day at the office for the Rio Rancho HS Rams.
Except this time the game was for all the marbles, and the Rams left no doubt they’re the best team in New Mexico this year. Rio Rancho polished off the #3-seeded Las Cruces Bulldawgs 39-17 to win the 6A state football championships.
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The Bulldawgs annihilated the second-seeded and defending champion Cleveland Storm – the only team to really test the Rams all year -- in the state semifinals, so the pundits prognosticated a thriller. And for the first half, the Dawgs delivered, taking the early lead and giving the Rams all they could handle in the first quarter. The game stayed close through halftime before a Rams surge and Bulldawg injuries finished off Las Cruces.
Rams star Foley delivered as usual, breaking long runs, snaring key passes, and charging and diving into the end zone for three scores (left). Quarterback Nic Little ran for a TD and junior outside linebacker Klövenas scampered into the end zone twice through holes opened by the offensive line you could drive a truck through. But the Rams will tell you it’s all about the D, and once again the defense delivered in spades, holding Las Cruces scoreless in the second half. In the photo below, defensive captain Elijah Goodwin accepts the trophy.
It’s tough to come into the season branded #1 and close the deal as undefeated state champions, and the Rams now have done it twice in three years (2014, 2016). Rams coach David Howes (backed by a terrific coaching staff) is now the only active coach in the state to have won multiple state championships with undefeated teams. The Rams' win keeps the state title in the City of Vision for the third straight year and the fourth time in six years (Cleveland's undefeated teams won in 2011 and 2015).
The 12-0 Rio Rancho Rams once again demonstrated why they're the consensus top team in the state on Saturday, mauling the #5 Manzano Monarchs 35-7 to advance to Saturday's state championship game. The Rams will take on the #3 seeded Las Cruces Bulldawgs on Saturday afternoon, December 3, at 1 PM at the Rams stadium at Rio Rancho HS.
he state semis, the Monarchs proved to be a stronger foe than they were earlier in the season, when the Rams rolled 64-27. They scored first and stayed in the game well into the third quarter. But Rio Rancho and running back Josh Foley -- who scored three touchdowns (he eludes tacklers enroute to the first in the photo at left) -- were just too much for Manzano, as they've been to every team they've faced this season.
Meanwhile, across town, the Bulldawgs made a powerful case of their own against Cleveland. The defending state champion Storm had a really tough night against the Dawgs, whom they had defeated earlier in the season. The Storm ends the season 10-2 (their only losses were to the two title contenders) and with a great foundation for next year.