Professor Y. will be back in a week to assign midterm grades to the metro area’s football teams as we approach the middle week (Week 6) of the 2021 fall season.
As we reach this hump week of the fall, it’s time for an overall status report in the upper-most divisions.
My buddy Adam Diehl, the radio voice of New Mexico United and someone who frequently does play-by-play for Cleveland High football games, went on Twitter on Saturday with a post that probably echoed what many people have been thinking or saying privately: namely, that a Cleveland-Rio Rancho state final seems inevitable.
Cleveland has been as high-powered as ever in its 5-0 start. Rio Rancho is only 3-0, but the Rams have hammmered the three teams they’ve played. Certainly the buzz is already building for their game in the regular-season finale, Oct. 29 at Rio Rancho.
But as we near the midseason mark, where are the challenges going to originate from? Will they even originate at all? It’s a fair question.
It could possibly come from Centennial, which appears to be the strongest bunch from the southern half of New Mexico so far and the best of the second-tier teams in 6A. Or, it could possibly emerge with a fully healthy La Cueva, although the Bears’ 50-0 loss in Week 2 to Rio Rancho, even with a severely depleted batch of receivers, is ample reason to be skeptical.
Is there another genuine threat to the Rio Rancho duo beyond Centennial and La Cueva? Maybe, but if there is, that team hasn’t identified itself yet. And it will require a special team to shoulder its way into the discussion.
But, there’s a good chunk of season in front of us. Carlsbad could make a statement when it plays Rio Rancho on Friday. Cibola will have its chances, too.
But as Week 5 exits, there exists more drama about who the best team is in Rio Rancho than about the candidacies of the pursuing group.
Moving down a class, 5A would appear to have three alphas – Farmington, Goddard and Los Lunas – and several outliers that are close but that don’t appear to (yet) be in their weight class.
Friday’s titanic Goddard-Los Lunas showdown in Valencia County figures to be the Game of the Year to date on the 5A schedule, and the Rockets play a strong Mayfield team the week after that. Farmington had largely bludgeoned its opponents, but its most recent win, 38-17 over rival Durango, Colorado, on Friday ranks as its best victory. Los Lunas also had its most impressive win of the season in Week 5, 26-19 on Friday night over Cibola.
In 4A, one of the interesting narratives of the second half is whether the contenders from the metro area – Albuquerque Academy, St. Pius, Bernalillo, Moriarty and perhaps even Valencia – can, or will, win playoff games in November. And if so, which teams? Four of those five schools (everyone but Moriarty) are in the same district, and there is promise of exciting matchups throughout October.
Moriarty very quietly has been playing solid football in the first month of the season, and the Pintos are coming off their strongest result, a 7-6 victory at unbeaten Bernalillo on Friday night.
At the top of 4A are Bloomfield, Lovington and Silver. But my impression is that unlike 6A, for example, no team, or teams, have a clear majority.
The previous mark, 275 yards, had stood since 1996 until Ybarra shattered it against the Tigers in a 40-28 victory at Nusenda Community Stadium on Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, St. Pius – which may be offering the most public bang for the buck of any prep football team in the state – was involved in yet another nail-biter in Week 5, winning 21-20 at Portales.
The Sartans have already had three games decided by three points or fewer this season (this was the first of the three they won) and four decided by seven or fewer points. Plus the Taos game was a one-score game the majority of the way until a late 94-yard TD burst by Ybarra made it a 12-point margin.
Friday, the difference came down to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Portales on its middle touchdown. The ensuing 35-yard PAT failed.
Ybarra added another 166 yards on 33 carries, with two touchdowns for St. Pius. He has perhaps been the 4A MVP through the first half of the season.
The Rams were missing a game (the opener against Goddard at the Wool Bowl) and the Cavemen were also short a game (at Volcano Vista), and with the two schools sharing a bye week the pairing was put into motion.
Carlsbad will play Rio Rancho at 6 p.m. on Friday at Eastern New Mexico.