ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s rare indeed when the elite status of big-school prep football in the northern half of New Mexico can be trumpeted and it is not confused with hyperbole.
For that, thank the folks who constructed District 2-5A.
Today’s 2-5A opener at Wilson Stadium between No. 2 Eldorado and No. 3 Manzano (7 p.m.) sets into motion three weeks of buzz-worthy matchups and games with all manner of seeding implications.
“This game,” Eldorado coach Charlie Dotson said, “is everything to us.”
With top-ranked La Cueva hitting a groove, it is conceivable that the difference between winning and losing tonight is the difference between a first-round playoff bye and a first-round playoff game.
Dotson and his counterpart, Manzano’s Aaron Ocampo, are certainly aware of this, and it adds another element to what is already one of Albuquerque’s best rivalries.
The Monarchs are coming off road wins at No. 4 Cleveland and No. 7 Clovis.
“I thought we’d have a pretty decent team this year, but I didn’t know how we were going to be because our schedule is so tough,” Ocampo said.
Had Manzano (6-1) completed a two-point conversion last month against Cibola, this would be a matchup of unbeatens. Eldorado (7-0) and La Cueva (7-0) are the final two in 5A.
This game also features two of the state’s best — and most underrated — quarterbacks in Manzano’s Ryan Trujillo and Eldorado’s Marcus Jaramillo, as well as two of 5A’s top playmakers in Eldorado tailback Chris Sedillo and Manzano’s all-purpose Kevin Reaves.
DISTRICT 1-5A: Fourth-ranked Cleveland comes off a bye week to play host to No. 8 Cibola, still licking its wounds after La Cueva pounded the Cougars 49-14 last week.
Volcano Vista travels to Rio Rancho, and the loser is almost certainly out of playoff contention.
“Same story, Chapter Two,” said Volcano Vista coach Chad Wallin, whose Hawks posted a must-win 19-13 victory last week against Sandia. “Two teams fighting for the playoffs.”
Both district openers kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.
DISTRICT 5-4A: Del Norte is the two-time defending district champ here, although the Knights have won only twice in seven tries this year. Their league opener has them opposite St. Pius at 5 p.m. Saturday at Wilson Stadium.
Eighth-ranked Moriarty visits winless Atrisco Heritage Academy in the other 5-4A opener, tonight at 7 at Milne Stadium.