La Cueva and Cibola have been selected to open the 2016 high school football season.
Albuquerque Public Schools announced the varsity schedules for next season, and once again, the year will kick off on a Wednesday night. This season, that’s Aug. 24 at Community Stadium, with the Bears and Cougars taking the stage first.
Cleveland and Rio Rancho also have their schedules set for next season.
The defending Class 6A champions from Cleveland have an especially brutal group of nondistrict opponents. Cleveland opens at Oñate, but then faces, on four successive weeks, La Cueva, Las Cruces (in Rio Rancho), Centennial (at the Field of Dreams) and last year’s 5A state champion, Artesia, at Bulldog Bowl.
That will be the first-ever meeting between Cleveland and Artesia.
As for APS, the opening weekend won’t have the same look as we’ve seen the past several years. There are some new wrinkles.
Community Stadium once again has the lion’s share of games the first week. That includes Manzano-Atrisco Heritage on Aug. 25, Rio Grande-Sandia and West Mesa-Del Norte on Aug. 26, and Valley-Volcano Vista and St. Pius-Highland on Saturday, Aug. 27.
But opening weekend is notable for two key changes: first, Cleveland and Rio Rancho are no longer part of the East vs. West Kickoff Clash series that occurs in Week 1.
Second, two Las Cruces programs, Las Cruces High and Centennial, are visiting town to begin the season.
The Bulldawgs play Eldorado at Wilson Stadium in a rematch of their thrilling state semifinal from November, a 44-42 Eagles victory.
The Hawks, in their debut as a 6A program, face Albuquerque High at Milne Stadium.
Judge Chavez’s first game for Valley as its head coach is a Saturday afternoon affair at Community Stadium against Volcano Vista.
Chavez was not welcomed back with the easiest of slates, as his demanding nondistrict schedule includes Sandia, Alamogordo, Las Cruces and Eldorado.
One of the more fascinating nondistrict games is a Week 2 encounter in which Manzano and coach Chad Adcox visit the Monarchs’ previous coach, Aaron Ocampo, who will be in his fifth season at Centennial.
Rio Rancho, the 2014 state champion, opens at Mayfield. Other notable nondistrict opponents for the Rams are road games at Clovis and Sandia, and home games with Oñate and Manzano.
One of the interesting developments for this coming season is that Rio Rancho and Cleveland will not finish the season against each other. In fact, the Rams and Storm will square off in the District 1-6A opener in Week 7 at Cleveland. Rams coach David Howes said a random draw determined the order of league opponents.
Clovis won’t face any APS teams in the first half of the season, but that’s only because the Wildcats play four of them (La Cueva, Sandia, Eldorado, Manzano) in the second half as they are all in the same district, 2-6A, starting this fall.
And there are far more matchups between the quartet of Las Cruces schools and programs in the metro area, largely because there is a new mega-district for the south next season, comprising seven schools.
That means a six-game district schedule, with room for only four nondistrict opponents.
Some notable games for Weeks 2-11:
■ Week 2: Cibola at Las Cruces, Manzano at Centennial, La Cueva at Cleveland
■ Week 3: Eldorado at Mayfield, Las Cruces at Cleveland, Centennial at La Cueva
■ Week 4: Mayfield at Volcano Vista, Carlsbad at Cibola, Las Cruces at Valley, Cleveland at Centennial
■ Week 5: Cleveland at Artesia, Manzano at Rio Rancho, Cibola at Sandia
■ Week 6: Rio Rancho at Sandia, Piedra Vista at Manzano
■ Week 7: Rio Rancho at Cleveland, Manzano at La Cueva, Eldorado at Clovis
■ Week 8: Cleveland at Cibola, Volcano Vista at Rio Rancho, Clovis at Manzano
■ Week 9: Sandia at La Cueva, Eldorado at Manzano, Cibola at Volcano Vista
■ Week 10: La Cueva at Eldorado, Sandia at Clovis, Rio Rancho at Cibola
■ Week 11: Cleveland at Volcano Vista, La Cueva at Clovis, Manzano at Sandia