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Prep football: Rio Rancho at a glance

Coach: David Howes (8th year; 56-26)

Last season: 7-4; lost 55-14 in 6A quarterfinals to Las Cruces

Returning starters: 6 offense, 9 defense

Key players: Josh Foley, sr. (5-11, 190, QB/RB/ DB); Vinny Palmeri, sr. (6-2, 230, LB); Dakota Carrasco, sr. (6-3, 210, WR/DB); Haven Corsey, jr. (5-9, 170, DB); Elijah Goodwin, sr. (5-11, 245, NG/FB); Keshawn Banks, jr. (6-3, 200, DE); Derrick Reyes, jr. (6-4, 210, WR); Logan Hertz, sr. (6-5, 270, OT); Ashton Klovenas, sr. (5-10, 185, LB); Nic Little, sr. (5-11, 185, QB); Kevin McCracken, sr. (6-2, 240, DE); Trey Parnell, sr. (6-0, 210, LB); Corey Perez, sr. (5-8, 240, OL); Evan Tafoya-Vallo, jr. (6-3, 290, OT).

Outlook: After a tough finish to last season, Rio Rancho, with 15 starters returning, looks to get back in the championship hunt. As usual, this offense is loaded, led by the versatile Foley, a speedster with great vision. And this team has some big, athletic receivers — specifically Reyes and Carrasco. Goodwin, Banks and Palmeri are several of the featured names on a defense that is physical and experienced, with all linemen and linebackers returning. Could be a team that plays on the first Saturday in December.

2016 schedule

(x-District 1-6A games)

Aug. 26, at Mayfield, 7 p.m.

Sept. 2, El Paso Americas, 7 p.m.

Sept. 9, at Clovis, 7 p.m.

Sept. 16, Oñate, 7 p.m.

Sept. 23, Manzano, 7 p.m.

Sept. 30, at Sandia (W), 7 p.m.

x-Oct. 7, at Cleveland, 7 p.m.

x-Oct. 14, Volcano Vista, 7 p.m.

Oct. 21, OPEN

x-Oct. 29, at Cibola (C), 1 p.m.

x-Nov. 4, Piedra Vista, 7 p.m.

Circle the date: Leaving aside the showdown with Cleveland, it is actually the season opener with the Trojans that should give everyone, including the Rams, a good idea of where they stand. Mayfield and Rio Rancho are arguably the 1-2 preseason favorites in this classification. In any case, the Rams are rated the metro area’s top team.