RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Rio Rancho High School senior quarterback Isaiah Chavez has two goals for this season: to win a state championship and get out of Dodge.
After growing up on Albuquerque’s West Side, his family moved to Rio Rancho when he was a seventh grader.
“I love being here — the culture’s great, the teammates are great, the coaches are great,” Chavez said.
He got his first varsity snaps in his sophomore year — “Hey, look, there’s a quarterback running with the ball!” — and got the nod as the starter last season.
Chavez also recalled getting some reps as a slot receiver while a soph — “I earned my way to second-team All-District,” he noted.
“My personal goals are to get to college, make my family proud. (And) just get out of New Mexico,” he said.
His most-memorable game from the 2018 season, when the Rams were a disappointing 4-7 after a first-round loss to Manzano, was their 38-35 loss to visiting Volcano Vista. The Rams had been 8-0 all-time in district meetings with the Hawks, who wound up as 1-6A runners-up to Cleveland.
“That game is still fresh in my mind, even though we lost by three points,” he said. The Rams missed what would have been a game-tying 39-yard field goal on the game’s last play, a distance longer than it should have been after an offensive pass-interference penalty against the Rams a minute earlier.
“Both teams made so many good plays,” he recalled. “I think that scramble that I had, when I made two spins off defenders and got the first down, I think that was one of my greatest runs that I’ve made.”
He had other great performances, among them a five-touchdown pass game in a comeback win over Cibola and a 191-yard rushing day with three TDs, plus two more through the air, in a rout of Atrisco Heritage Academy.
His best game this season arguably was on Sept. 6 — keying the Rams’ first win, when he eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark, only to finish with 90 yards after he lost yardage while running out the clock, and completed 15 passes in 24 attempts, with three touchdown passes and zero interceptions, for 185 yards.
He’s already looking forward to the Rams’ game with Volcano Vista (Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. at Nusenda Community Stadium): This year’s gonna be a year for the books,” he vowed. “Cleveland’s our district rival; there’s enough said on that game. But I’m not worried about them right now.
“The thing that we can guarantee is we’re gonna fight until the clock hits zero — that’s one thing we will do for our community and for our team,” he said, hoping “to become a better pocket-passer.
“I felt like I’ve been doing good; everything’s clicking for me right now,” Chavez said. “(The offensive line) has been amazing; they’ve been working their tails off to do what they can to protect me. I’m grateful for them, because without them, I’d be nothing.
“I’m a football player that plays basketball,” was his response to the Observer’s regular question of two-sport standouts. His role on the basketball team will expand, in light of the team losing its top two scorers, David Patterson and Blaine Gallegos, to graduation.
“I love basketball too,” he said. “(But) I started playing football back in third grade.”
He truly is a football player who also plays basketball.
And this football player will also see time in the Rams’ defensive backfield — so he’s not just throwing passes when the Rams have the pigskin, he’s trying to catch passes thrown by opposing quarterbacks.
“He’s done some amazing things for us, not just athletically,” RRHS coach David Howes said. “(Last season) he was finally able to get a year under his belt at quarterback and now it’s his show. He’s played tailback also — he had three touchdowns against Piedra Vista.”
Howes said Chavez is the type of football player he loves to have on his roster: “He has solid leadership qualities — at the end of the day, he’s one of those dependable people. He’s there to work.”
Like so many of today’s prep players, Chavez’s football career began with a Young America Football League team, for which he actually played defensive end. His idol, he said, is Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota, who Chavez might remind some Rams fans of: “I think me and (Mariota) have similar running games; he’s got more accuracy than me,” he said.
He remembers coming to Rams games as a youngster, first watching Easton Bruere, and then Nic Little, under center, before Chavez’s predecessor, Logan Bruere — the guy ahead of him when Chavez was a soph.
Hopefully, Chavez will still be in Dodge this winter.
He’s been to a handful of football camps (Northern Arizona and New Mexico State among them) and, if he gets a college offer to play his favorite game, it’ll have to be out of state.
“Anything that gets me out of here is fine with me,” he said. “(Playing) quarterback in high school’s fine; I think when I go to college, it’ll be wide receiver or DB for me.”
Howes said Chavez has what it takes to be among the top QBs in the metro area.
“There is no reason he shouldn’t have the type of season you’ll see from (Diego) Pavia (formerly at St. Pius X, now at Volcano Vista) or (Cleveland signal-caller Jeff) Davison — no reason Isaiah shouldn’t be considered one of the top quarterbacks in the metro and New Mexico,” Howes said. “All the excuses are gone — now’s the time to go out there and perform.”
His next performance fans can see is Friday evening at Wilson Stadium, where the Rams meet La Cueva in a 7 p.m. kickoff.