ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Some key games to keep an eye on during the 2012 prep football season:
It doesn’t get any better than Cleveland-La Cueva, as the Storm visit the Bears at Wilson Stadium. It is part of Albuquerque Public Schools’ annual East-West Kickoff Clash. There are seven games on the opening weekend, including Highland at Rio Rancho and Sandia-West Mesa.
How much have Valley’s youngsters grown up? That will begin to come into clearer focus when the Vikings meet La Cueva. Also on tap, St. Michael’s visits St. Pius in their annual grudge match.
Former Manzano coach Aaron Ocampo returns to Albuquerque, as the head coach of Centennial which takes on Atrisco Heritage Academy.
But the best game on the local schedule is in Rio Rancho, where Goddard plays the Rams. Las Cruces (vs. Cibola) and Clovis (vs. Manzano) are in town on Saturday.
All eyes turn to Rio Rancho in Week 4.
Las Cruces and Rio Rancho staged a riveting quarterfinal at the Field of Dreams last November. The Bulldawgs are the road team for the rematch.
That same night at Cleveland, the defending state champion Storm plays host to Clovis.
Class 2A state champion Santa Rosa is at Hope Christian as well.
Aztec and Manzano both have new head coaches. The Tigers are at Wilson to take on the Monarchs.
The following afternoon at Wilson, Mayfield makes its lone appearance in Albuquerque as the Trojans hook up with Eldorado.
Kind of slim pickins’ here. The best game on the docket can be found on Friday, as Highland visits Cleveland. A third of all metro-area programs (eight) are idle.
Atrisco Heritage’s first district game is here, against Valley. Former Volcano Vista assistant Bruce Binkley, now the head man at Del Norte, meets his former school. And Eldorado goes to Rio Rancho, part of a very impressive — and difficult — 2012 slate for the Rams who hope to follow in Cleveland’s footsteps as a state champion.
AHA meets Rio Grande in a battle of South Valley programs — and, now, district rivals.
But the top attraction is at Wilson, where La Cueva plays host to Carlsbad. The Bears beat the Cavemen in last year’s first-round playoff game in Carlsbad.
At the end of the weekend, District 5-3A powers Albuquerque Academy and Hope Christian square off at the Academy, and Highland faces West Mesa in a crucial 5-5A matchup.
The week begins with a doozy: Eldorado-La Cueva on a Thursday night, the District 2-5A opener. Manzano and Sandia meet the next evening.
Cibola-Rio Rancho is always good for fireworks, as the two rivals meet in the penultimate week of the regular season.
Also, La Cueva faces Manzano, and Albuquerque Academy goes to Santa Fe to face St. Mike’s.
Swing games abound as the regular season ends. District 2-5A features Sandia-La Cueva on Thursday and Eldorado-Manzano on Friday.
District 1-5A offers up what should be a magical game between Rio Rancho and Cleveland. On Saturday, Valley and Highland meet, with potential playoff implications.
It ends at 6 p.m. at Milne, where St. Pius and Moriarty play at Milne for what might be the District 5-4A title.
— This article appeared on page B3 of the Albuquerque Journal