RIO RANCHO — Why should the playoffs be any different?
The Eldorado Eagles, who took just about every game down to the wire all season, did so again Friday night with a dramatic 28-26 victory at Cleveland. The 11th-seeded Eagles (5-5) move into the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state playoffs against La Cueva, while the defending state champion and sixth-seeded Storm finishes the season at 6-5.
“We just don’t ever quit; we never give up,” said Eldorado senior receiver Toben Brazier, who caught a 15-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter to give the Eagles their first lead of the game. “We just kept working hard, and we made the big plays.”
Brazier’s score came during an incredible 4 1/2-minute burst in which the Eagles scored 21 straight points to turn around a game they looked to have lost.
Cleveland dominated the first half, but twice had to settle for field goals to lead 20-7 at intermission. The Storm took the second-half kickoff, drove to the EHS 8 and two plays later scored an apparent touchdown on a 13-yard run by senior Romell Jordan.
But the play was called back because of a holding penalty, and the Storm eventually missed a 30-yard field goal.
Cleveland continued to move the ball at will and looked ready to score again late in the third quarter after junior quarterback Kian Homme completed a pass to the Eldorado 20. But a penalty negated the play, and Homme was sacked two plays later on third down.
The Eagles then turned the game around when Dez Ravenel blocked a Cleveland punt and raced 35 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-14 with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
Eldorado forced another punt, and on the next play backup quarterback Alan Evans — playing halfback — took an overhand lateral from quarterback Zach Gentry, then fired a 69-yard halfback option to Ravenel. Two plays later, Gentry hit Brazier for the go-ahead TD.
Said Eldorado coach Charlie Dotson: “It wasn’t a very pretty win, but we’ll take it. I’m just so proud of the kids.”