It was completely satisfying for Volcano Vista – and yet somehow oddly unsatisfying for so many of the rest of us.
Sifting through Friday’s 35-7 victory by the top-ranked Hawks over No. 2 Cleveland, there are some issues to discuss. For me, it starts with this one: For as well as Volcano Vista played – and its opening half of football Friday was the best half I’ve seen from any team in any game this year – there is a bizarre emptiness to it all.
To wit: With the very conspicuous absence of Cleveland starting quarterback Jeff Davison on Friday (he is recovering from a shoulder injury), I would be reluctant to attach too much significance to this final score, for either school.
I’ll repeat here what I said on Twitter on Friday night: Davison’s presence in this game doesn’t change the outcome, in my opinion. Volcano Vista was terrific on both sides of the ball, and oh that defense!
But that is not to say that a healthy Davison in a potential rematch next month in the playoffs – “We’ll see ’em again,” Hawks coach Chad Wallin said – won’t alter the next game, if there is one.
In the same way that Volcano Vista was a less dynamic offense when an injured Diego Pavia was not playing quarterback, Cleveland was noticeably less potent minus Davison.
Davison is a solid passing QB and also a running threat, to say nothing of the fact that he’s been the starting quarterback the last season-and-a-half before a separated shoulder two weeks ago against Atrisco Heritage forced him out of action. He knows that offense, he understands its rhythms and how to make it purr. It is a far more high-functioning unit with Davison on the field. When he plays, any defense must respect his dual-threat skills. Moreover, Davison at QB opens things up for his star running back, Dorian Lewis.
Since Lewis arrived in Rio Rancho, I cannot recall watching any defense doing to him what Volcano Vista accomplished on Friday, and that is to smother him and turn last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year into an ineffective afterthought.
“(We wanted) to corral him, keep him moving laterally and guessing, rather than full speed in any direction,” Wallin said.
Lewis finished with 53 yards on 19 carries, but one of those attempts, a third-quarter draw play, earned 24 yards. Take that one away, and it’s 29 yards on 18 carries. The Hawks’ defensive front won most of the battles at the line of scrimmage and seemed to be renting space in Cleveland’s backfield. Volcano Vista swarmed Lewis in bunches every time he had a touch.
“I think we’re the No. 1 defense in the state,” said Hawks running back Isaac Chavez, who had a solid game Friday.
Although Cleveland started fast with a terrific opening scoring drive, it went the final 42 minutes without a point.
“I thought it would be a back-and-forth game,” said Volcano Vista’s Jimmy Gallegos, who rushed for three scores in the victory. “But once our momentum starting going, there was no stopping it.”
Davison’s absence is why nobody should get caught up in the margin of Volcano Vista’s victory. The Hawks were outstanding and they had a right Friday to thump their chests, but as they turn around to face white-hot Rio Rancho next Saturday, they had better hit the reset button and fast.
And Storm fans shouldn’t read too much into this loss, either. The Hawks were clearly the better team on Friday, and they’ve been the best team (from my chair) all season in Class 6A. Cleveland’s defense played extremely well in the second half, however, and that is something to build on should the two district rivals meet again.
“People panic when we lose a football game,” Storm coach Heath Ridenour said, candidly. “It’s kind of crazy. The persona of us, is we’re gonna always win. And when we don’t, people are shocked.”
A healthy Davison would seriously enhance a rematch. That’s what I meant in my opening sentence about this being so unsatisfying, particularly for prep football fans like myself. If the teams ranked 1 and 2 by the coaches are going to meet, the only surefire way to identify the best is to have every key personnel piece available.
That being said, even Davison’s return won’t be enough if this Volcano Vista defense continues to perform like it has. The Hawks’ speed and experience on that side of the ball is impressive, and this unit’s makeup is similar in ways to La Cueva’s championship defense last fall.
“It’s just how we hustle to the ball and we just hit,” senior outside linebacker Jacob Gellhausen said. “(Eleven) men are on the ball every single play.”
THIS AND THAT: La Cueva wide receiver Connor O’Toole took an official visit to Washington State this weekend.