ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Deep snapper on the punting team may not be a glamour position, but Cleveland’s Josh Hinman made it a key position Friday night.
After snapping the ball for a second-quarter punt, Hinman hustled downfield on a dead sprint in the Storm’s season-opening football game against visiting La Cueva. Turns out he was in perfect position to recover a muffed punt on the Bears’ 9.
Cleveland scored three plays later to take a 21-14 lead in the final seconds of the first half and never looked back. The Storm scored on three consecutive drives in the third quarter to build a comfortable lead and take a 42-20 victory.
Still, Hinman’s hustle play rated as the turning point.
“Josh Hinman had a great game for us,” Cleveland coach Heath Ridenour said. “There’s no doubt that recovery was huge – huge.”
Cleveland’s no-huddle offense was in high gear most of the night, compiling 232 passing yards and 219 more on the ground. Jesse Nieto rushed for 188 yards and scored three touchdowns, but La Cueva took advantage of several Storm mistakes to keep things close until the third quarter.
“We had some breakdowns,” Nieto said, “but at halftime we weren’t worried. We just came out in the second half and did what we do best, play football.”
Quarterback Kian Homme completed 20 of 34 passes and connected on scoring passes to Nieto and Tyler Wilson.
Cibola coach Rod Williams talked in the offseason of transforming the Cougars into a 48-miniute team and finding a way to close out games. But despite their best efforts, Cibola squandered a 10-point lead in the final four minutes Thursday night and fell 33-31 to Valley.
This was certainly not a game Cibola lost; the Vikings simply snatched it away with two clutch drives and one well-timed defensive stand down the stretch.
“We just didn’t execute, that’s what it came down to,” Williams said after his debut with Cibola, which was, by and large, an impressive showing for his energetic Cougars.
“That was a great experience for us tonight,” Williams later said.
Cibola quarterback Derek Martinez threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns, and also kicked a field goal.
“I thought Derek threw the ball well. He made some good reads and he was very confident out there,” Williams said.
Also for the Cougars, Blair Manly ran back a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, and a pair of wide receivers, Manly and Ray Garza, hooked up on a 37-yard touchdown pass. Manly took a handoff on a reverse, the entire Valley defense bit, and Manly threw to a wide open Garza.
For Valley, senior quarterback Bo Coleman threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for a fifth TD.
“We’ve been together since we were little and we believe in each other,” Coleman said after the comeback.
Russell Montoya and Aaron Molina each caught a pair of scores; it was Molina’s 7-yard touchdown catch with 35.4 seconds to go that put the Vikings ahead. They went 70 yards in the final 2:20.
“Two minutes in our offense is like eight minutes for most offenses,” Valley coach Enrico Marcelli said.
Cibola led for most of the final three quarters, and on its first drive of the game, got stopped at the Valley 1.
“No one should say they’re not a good team,” Coleman said of Cibola. “They’ve got a lot of talent out there.”
An example of why statistics are sometimes meaningless: the Hawks were better than the Monarchs in all three phases on Wednesday night, but still lost, 17-14.
Manzano’s touchdown pass from Angel Gonzales to Josh Alvarez with 1.4 seconds left in the game was the difference.
Volcano Vista scored with 1:04 to go on a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Josh Williams, a sophomore making his debut under center for the Hawks.
Volcano outgained Manzano 310-216 and the Hawks’ defense shut down the Monarchs’ running game, limiting them to 96 total yards and less than 3 yards per carry.
But the Hawks had two costly turnovers – one directly leading to a Manzano touchdown at the end of the first half – and also had 14 penalties.
A snap over the head of Williams – who was in the shotgun – late in the second quarter was recovered by Manzano for a TD and a 10-0 lead.
The Hawks chose not to take a knee at their own 7 with under a minute left and Manzano not having enough timeouts to get the ball back.
“We should have been under center in that situation,” VVHS coach Chad Wallin said. “That was a coaching error.”
Week 1 closes with St. Pius and Rio Rancho in action at Community Stadium.
The Sartans meet Albuquerque High at 10 a.m., while the Rams meet Highland at 6 p.m.
Week 2 picks
Here is the schedule for Week 2 of the prep football season (Journal Staff Writer James Yodice’s pick is in parenthesis):
Thursday: Cibola at Sandia, 7 p.m., Wilson Stadium (Sandia)
Thursday: La Cueva at Valley, 7 p.m., Community Stadium (Valley)
Friday: Gadsden at Rio Rancho, 7 p.m. (Rio Rancho)
Friday: Cleveland at El Paso Chapin, 7 p.m. (Cleveland)
Friday: Bernalillo at Roswell, 7 p.m. (Roswell)
Saturday, Sept. 7: West Mesa at Manzano, 1 p.m., Wilson Stadium (Manzano)
Saturday, Sept. 7: St. Pius at St. Michael’s, 1:30 p.m. (St. Mike’s)
Volcano Vista is idle.