Cleveland High promotes Garza to be head football coach - Albuquerque Journal

Cleveland High promotes Garza to be head football coach

Cleveland High School moved swiftly and definitively as it selected its next head football coach.
Less than 24 hours after the resignation of Heath Ridenour became official, Cleveland on Friday morning announced that special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach Robert Garza would take over the program.

Garza, 38, has been a coach at Cleveland since the program’s first season in 2009.

Robert Garza was promoted to Cleveland High head football coach on Friday. (Courtesy photo)
“I’m stepping into the best job in the state,” Garza said. “My plan is, we’re gonna pick up where we left off.”
Cleveland has won 22 consecutive games dating to 2019 and captured the last two Class 6A state championships, in 2019 and again last November.
Garza, who coaches physical education at Cleveland, was the JV defensive coach there from 2009-2011. When Ridenour replaced Kirk Potter prior to the 2012 season, He promoted Garza to the varsity staff.
Garza and Ridenour were briefly teammates at Eastern New Mexico University. Garza was a redshirt freshman when Ridenour was a senior quarterback.
“I don’t see a whole lot changing, to be honest,” said Ridenour, who was formally introduced Friday as the new quarterbacks coach at the University of New Mexico. “Which is good. We had a really good thing going on.”
Ridenour said Friday that he requested Cleveland promote his successor from within, rather than conduct an extended search.
“It’s awesome the district decided to go in that direction,” Ridenour said.
Rio Rancho Public Schools district athletic director Bruce Carver said continuity was extremely important as decision makers plotted Cleveland’s future. And they knew Garza was a keeper, as he was a finalist for Los Lunas’ most recent vacancy, eventually filled by Greg Henington.
“If it’s not broke, why would you bring in somebody (from the outside) to change things?” Carver said. “We went with a guy that we have all the confidence in the world in.”
Garza hails from tiny Idalou, Texas, seven miles east of Lubbock. He drew the attention of Eastern New Mexico as a player there.
As for how he became part of Cleveland’s coaching staff, Garza said it was an “accident.”
He was coaching in Texas, but looking for work in the metro area because his future wife was from Los Lunas.
“I was trying to do whatever I could to get a job out here,” he said.
He made contact with Cleveland’s first head coach, Potter, in 2008, and the partnership was born.
“We’re gonna pick up where we left off,” said Garza, who teaches physical education at Cleveland. “We’re not gonna reinvent anything; we have a pretty good process going on.”
One of the Storm’s top returners said Garza’s promotion would be well received.
“Coach Garza is a great dude,” said Cleveland sophomore inside linebacker Stratton Shufelt, who earlier this week was named a second-team All-American by “I think it will absolutely be a great fit, (and) I think we’ll be in really good hands.”
So does Ridenour.
“Garza is highly intelligent,” said Ridenour, who was 96-18 in 10 seasons as Cleveland’s head coach, which included seven years with at least 10 victories and three blue trophies. “A good problem solver. On the field, he’s gonna do just fine. I’m not worried about him one bit. I’ve seen Garza in the fire before, and I like him in the fire.”
Among the nondistrict teams Cleveland is expected to play next season are El Paso Franklin, Artesia, Las Cruces and Centennial.
“I want to keep the train rolling,” Garza said, “by sticking to the process we have in place. I’m 100 percent ready to step up and lead this program.”


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