RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Sophomore running back Zach Vigil carried the ball 28 times for 167 yards, scoring four times on runs of 4, 1, 5 and 1 yard, as No. 7 Rio Rancho beat visiting No. 6 Clovis for the ninth year in a row, 48-28.
The Rams (1-2), going 7 for 7 in the red zone, also had senior quarterback Isaiah Chavez surpass the century mark on the ground — until he took a 15-yard loss while running out the clock to end the game.
Vigil started the scoring by capping a seven-play, 62-yard first-quarter drive on a 4-yard run. Bailey Siverts added the point-after, and the Rams led 7-0 when the first period ended.
The Rams scored the first two TDs of the second quarter on Vigil’s first 1-yard run and a 19-yard touchdown pass from Chavez to Nick Rotert. Siverts added the PAT and Chavez tossed to Tyrese Watson for a 2-point conversion, respectively, after those TDs.
Clovis (2-1), which never ran a play in the red zone, got the first two of its four 60 yards or longer TDs in the second period: QB Chance Harris threw a pass to an all-alone Malik Phillips, which went for a 65-yarder, and then Harris galloped 80 yards through the Rams’ defense.
At halftime, the Rams held a 22-14 lead.
The teams traded the next four scores: Vigil went in from 5 yards out and Harris found Phillips open in the secondary again, this time for a 60-yard TD pass, and it was then a 28-22 Rams advantage.
Chavez hooked up with Watson on a fade route, covering 7 yards, and the ‘Cats countered with an 88-yard TD pass from Harris to Jeston Webskowski — but those were the Wildcats’ final touchdowns of the game.
The Rams scored the only points in the fourth quarter, on a 20-yard Chavez to Rotert connection and a 1-yard run by Vigil.
The Rams’ defense — albeit giving up those four long touchdowns — did its job for the most past, as Clovis managed only a minus-14 rushing yards in the second half to go with Harris’s 163 passing yards.
Eleventh-year Rams head coach David Howes, who’d seen his team blow a 28-point lead at home in his team’s opener, was asked what he was happier with, other than a W.
“I think playing four quarters,” he said. “Watching us take care of the football (the Rams didn’t turn the ball over); I just thought that looked like good, sound football.
“We’ve got to eliminate the long play,” Howes added. “We’ve got some guys making some errors on the back end. … We’re in the right direction. I’m just really thrilled with the sound football that we saw tonight.”
Vigil, who wants to break former Rams gridiron standout Chris Williams’ long-standing offensive records, said, “I feel good; got a little beat-up on one play, but they’re not going to take me out. I’m going to be here for my team, and I’ll always be here — pain or no pain.”
His favorite play, in light of his big night?
“Running behind No. 72, Ryan Ortiz, one of the greatest linemen.” (Ortiz is a 6-2, 250-pound senior lineman.)
The Rams face Las Cruces on Saturday at 1 at the Field of Dreams. It will be the 250th football game in RRHS history. Although their first meeting didn’t come until 2011, the Rams and Bulldawgs have met 10 times, including four times in state quarterfinal contests and in the 2016 championship game, won by the host Rams, 39-17. Las Cruces has won three of the five meetings at the Field of Dreams, and also handed the Rams a 44-33 setback in RRHS’s 2018 homecoming game.