RIO RANCHO — The Cleveland Storm has won four straight football games, and to hear them tell it, much of this has to do with the game they didn’t win.
“We’re not gonna forget about opening night,” Cleveland coach Robert Garza said after Class 6A’s top-ranked team polished off a 61-33 victory over visiting Artesia, Class 5A’s second-ranked team, on Friday night. “We’re using that as motivation throughout the year.”
Yes, it’s been a month since Centennial beat Cleveland 38-35 on opening night, with a score in the final minute. But in the four ensuing games, the Storm (4-1) has gone through some excellent teams, such as La Cueva and Amarillo High. And, on Friday, Artesia (3-2).
Cleveland’s big three — quarterback Evan Wysong, slot Nic Trujillo and especially running back Josh Perry — all enjoyed large performances against the Bulldogs on homecoming night for the Storm.
Perry ran, unofficially, for 257 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns, leading an unstoppable Storm offense that only punted once, and that came late in the game.
“I feel like we’re really executing on offense whenever we’re all going,” said Perry.
Perry rushed for three touchdowns in the first half — 1 yard, 2 yards and 7 yards.
Wysong and Trujillo, who both have verbally committed to play in college for the University of New Mexico, connected on a pair of scores in the first half, covering 6 and 15 yards.
Although Artesia led early 7-0, it was Cleveland, which scored 26 unanswered points after that initial Bulldogs’ TD, leading 33-14 at halftime.
Wysong and Trujillo added a 46-yard TD scoring play barely a minute into the second half, and the rout was on for the Storm.
Wysong added a fourth TD pass later in the second half, and he also scored on a 37-yard keeper up the middle.
Artesia tried valiantly to keep up, but the Bulldogs were simply outgunned, and that rarely happens to them.
Quarterback Nye Estrada attempted 63 passes as he and Artesia tried to keep pace and perhaps make a game of it, and he did throw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns.
But Cleveland also intercepted him three times, and the Storm forced a fourth turnover on a fumble following a completed pass inside the 10.
It was a stretch of the second quarter that doomed Artesia’s chances.
Cleveland led 14-7 after the first quarter, and went up 20-7 on the 15-yard TD pass to Trujillo.
Artesia went three-and-out on its next possession, and that was the best thing that happened to its offense in the second quarter. Estrada was intercepted on consecutive plays while Cleveland held the ball most of the period.
The lone bright spot was Matthew Saiz, who returned a kickoff 94 yards for Artesia’s only points of the second quarter.
Perry was a constant throughout as the Bulldogs struggled to keep him in check.
“Very good running back,” Wysong said. “In my opinion, the best running back in the state. Don’t question it.”
Cleveland is at Frenship, Texas, next week, its fourth road game of the season.
CLEVELAND 61, ARTESIA 33
Artesia 7 6 14 6 — 33
Cleveland 14 19 14 14 — 61
Scoring: A, Jesse Laroch 5 pass from Nye Estrada (Peyton Greathouse kick); C, Nic Trujillo 6 pass from Evan Wysong (Jeff Bem kick); C, Josh Perry 1 run (Bem kick); C, Trujillo 15 pass from Wysong (kick failed); C, Perry 7 run (run failed); A, Matthew Saiz 94 kickoff return (kick blocked); C, Perry 2 run (Bem kick); C, Trujillo 46 pass from Wysong (Bem kick); A, Julian Rodriguez 7 pass from Estrada (Greathouse kick); C, Wysong 37 run (Bem kick); A, Bradley Valenzuela 4 run (Greathouse kick); C, Zachary Beranek 23 pass from Wysong (Bem kick); A, Greathouse 8 pass from Estrada (kick failed); C, Harris Momeh 8 run (Bem kick). Records: C 4-1; A 3-2.
First downs: A 23; C 28. Rushes-yards: A 18-39; C 56-382. Passing: A, 36-63-3—403; C 16-21-1—303. Total offense: A 442; C 685. Punts-avg.: A 2-34.5; C 1-25.0. Fumbles-lost: A 1-1; C 3-1. Penalties-yards: A 9-83; C 11-110.