Coach: Heath Ridenour (8th year; 68-16)
Last season: 12-1; beat Manzano in 6A quarterfinals, beat Volcano Vista in 6A semifinals, lost 33-14 to La Cueva in 6A championship game
Returning starters: 4 offense, 3 defense
Key players: Dorian Lewis, sr. (5-9, 185, RB); Jeff Davison, jr. (6-0, 185, QB); Tre Watson, jr. (6-5, 210, WR); Trey Ortega, jr. (5-9, 165, FS/slot/PK); Luke Wysong, jr. (5-9, 165, slot/CB); Jalen Washington, jr. (5-10, 195, OLB); Colten Madison, sr. (5-9, 190, ILB/RB); David Murphy, jr. (5-8, 185, SS); Parker Pulley, sr. (6-1, 305, G); Tres Villalpando, sr. (5-11, 195, ILB); Jason Gray, jr. (6-1, 215, DE); Trevon Dennard, jr. (6-1, 175, WR).
Outlook: The Storm, runner-up to La Cueva last season, is the Journal’s No. 3 choice in the top-five metro countdown. Cleveland, under Ridenour, continues to foster a tremendous program culture that seems to carry over each year. And as always, this team has talent pretty much everywhere across the board. The Big 3 alpha trio of Lewis (New Mexico’s most elite running back in 2018, and the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year with nearly 1,600 yards and 20 TDs, but coming off ACL surgery), Watson (after La Cueva’s Connor O’Toole, perhaps the most physically gifted receiver in 6A) and Davison, a junior QB who is coming off a sophomore season in which his touchdown/interception ratio was a ridiculous 26/2, give Cleveland a chance to be in the season’s final game once again. Lewis, just recently cleared by doctors, said he’ll be better than he was last year; everyone will find out soon enough if that is true. If he is, watch out. Other than Watson, who spent some time this offseason working with former NFL wide receiver Chris Williams from Rio Rancho High, this is a relatively new crop of receivers. Plus, only one starter returns along on the O-Line, and that might be an area to watch closely. The multi-talented Madison is perhaps the most under-the-radar weapon on this team. Madison, Ortega — who led Cleveland in interceptions last season — and Washington are three faces to watch on a defense that Ridenour is excited about.
2019 schedule (x-denotes District 1-6A game)
Aug. 23, Oñate, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30, at El Paso Franklin, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6, Eldorado, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13, Mayfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20, at Artesia, 7 p.m.
x-Oct. 4, Atrisco Heritage, 7 p.m.
x-Oct. 11, at Cibola (C), 7 p.m.
x-Oct. 18, at Volcano Vista (C), 7 p.m.
x-Oct. 25, West Mesa, 7 p.m.
x-Nov. 1, at Rio Rancho, 7 p.m.
Circle the date: From a venue standpoint, this is an easy call: Bulldog Bowl in Week 5 against Artesia. From a football standpoint, it’s also easy: the road game at Volcano Vista. The Hawks gave the Storm all it could want in two games last season, and the winner of this showdown might end up being the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs.