La Cueva showcased its big-play ability on offense in a 35-0 rout of Sandia at Wilson Stadium on Friday night in a District 2-6A opener.
With wideouts Exodus Ayers and Ian Sanchez sharing the field for the first time this season, Bears quarterback Aidan Armenta threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns — including a pair to Ayers — and the Bears were at a running clock by the 8:49 mark of the third quarter.
“… They (Ayers and Sanchez) just ran into injuries toward the end of the summer and the beginning of the season, so having them back really made our offense pretty dynamic,” La Cueva coach Brandon Back said.
After a botched Sandia punt resulted in a La Cueva (4-1) safety to begin the scoring, the Bears needed just three plays to find the end zone on a 22-yard pass from Armenta to Ayers for a 9-0 lead. A 31-yard pass from Armenta to Ayden Mitchell sparked a four-play scoring drive on the Bears’ next possession, which resulted in Mitchell punctuating the series with an 8-yard touchdown run for a 16-0 first-quarter lead.
The Matadors (1-3) had one of their best opportunities after La Cueva muffed a punt in the second quarter. Starting at its own 47, Sandia moved to the Bears’ 9 behind the running of Malachi Thymes and a roughing-the-passer penalty. The scoring chance dissolved when La Cueva’s Colt Mangino intercepted a pass at the 5-yard line and appeared to have a clear path to a pick-six. However, an inadvertent referee whistle gave the Bears the ball at their own 10 instead.
The error didn’t slow La Cueva’s momentum. Three plays into the drive, Armenta hit Sanchez on a 58-yard bomb to set La Cueva up on the Sandia 19. The Bears would score five plays later.
“We tell our kids all the time, everybody’s gonna come out here and make a mistake,” Back said. “Everybody’s gonna miss something. You’ve just got to have a good response.”
Armenta would connect with Ayers again for a 28-0 haltime lead, and the Bears capped off the scoring with a 68-yard TD completion from Armenta to Mason Crowell in the third quarter.
LA CUEVA 35, SANDIA 0
Sandia 0 0 0 0— 0 La Cueva 16 12 7 0—35 Scoring: LC, safety, Sandia fumbled punt snap in end zone; LC, Exodus Ayers 22 pass from Aidan Armenta (Mason Crowell kick); LC, Ayden Mitchell 8 run (Crowell kick); LC, Brandon Cabaniss 5 run (kick failed); LC, Ayers 8 pass from Armenta (kick blocked); LC, Crowell 68 pass from Armenta (Crowell kick). Rec.: L 4-1, 1-0 in 2-6A; S 1-3, 0-1. First Downs: S 10; LC 11. Rushes-yard: S 30-106; L 17-86. Passing: S 2-14-1—16; LC 14-21-0—297. Total Offense: S 122; LC 383. Punts-avg.: S 4-39.2; L 0-0. Fumbles-lost: S 2-0; LC 1-1. Penalties-yards: S 1-5; LC 3-35.
ALSO FRIDAY NIGHT: Cleveland rolled up 70 points at Bulldog Bowl as Class 6A’s top-ranked Storm (5-0) beat Artesia 70-29. … At the Field of Dreams in Las Cruces, the Bulldawgs snapped a three-game losing streak as they beat rival Mayfield 35-14. … In Belen, senior quarterback Diego Espinoza threw the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to Elijah Romero as the Eagles beat visiting Piedra Vista 20-14. The Panthers missed a field goal attempt at the end of regulation. … In Bernalillo, visiting Moriarty became the first team this season to score points against the Spartans, and the Pintos escaped with a 7-6 victory over the Spartans (4-1). … All of St. Pius’ games this season have been decided by eight points or fewer, and Friday was no different as the Sartans (3-2) beat Portales 21-20 at Eastern New Mexico’s stadium. … Volcano Vista beat Albuquerque High 28-0 at Milne Stadium and West Mesa blanked Rio Grande 55-0 at Nusenda Community Stadium.