RIO RANCHO — Three days of a new philosophy led to a new chapter in Rio Rancho history.
The host Rams forced Clovis to the air, and picked off three passes to hold off the Wildcats at bay for a 21-17 victory at Rio Rancho High School.
Senior Tyler Baker threw for 173 yards and three touchdowns, including a 26-yard lob up the middle to Zack Rogers for the go-ahead score with 3:53 to play, and the Ram defense got a goal-line interception from junior Tim Foley to seal the first win over Clovis in the program's history.
“These guys have been down and out,” Rio Rancho coach David Howes said. “They've been through the gamut.”
And the Rams (3-2) went through a game where it looked like they would dominate early, scoring on a pair of Baker-to-Andrew Shapiro touchdown passes in the second quarter to take a 14-3 lead.
A pair of big plays gave Clovis (3-2) the lead back, and they held it for much of the second half.
With the Rams looking to pad a 14-3 lead in the second, senior linebacker Emery Sierra sniffed out a screen pass and took an interception 51 yards for the score.
Clovis held for the rest of the quarter, and opened the third quarter with a 70-yard run by junior Quran Wiggins to take a 17-14 advantage.
Other than Wiggins' run, however, Clovis had 134 yards rushing and had to go to the pass 25 times.
“We knew other than that one busted play, we had sniffed out their run,” said Howes, who credited defensive end Kevin Howerton with leading a defensive scheme implemented Tuesday.
“We knew they would have to go to the air. We felt comfortable making a ground-running Clovis team throw the ball. I thought our defensive backs did a good job.”
Clovis assistant Darren Kelley said when the ball was on the ground, the Wildcats just didn't match Rio Rancho's level of execution.
“They stunted and came hard,” Kelley said. “We didn't step up our blocking and do what we're supposed to. You have to stay on your path and keep your gap.”
The Wildcats tried to run out the clock late in the fourth, but turned the ball over on downs on the Rams' 30 when officials ruled senior Blake Wiley had trapped a fourth-down pass.
The Rams answered with a nine-play, 70-yard drive, with Baker going 6-for-6 in the air.
Rogers got behind a pair of Clovis defenders and was alone on the dark blue end zone turf when Baker found him with a high-arcing throw.
Clovis responded, driving to the Ram 19, but a second-down fade route from Kyler Brewer-Hill fell just short of Wiley and into double coverage — where Foley pulled in the pick with 1:02 to play.
The Rams face Manzano at Milne Stadium, while Clovis returns home to face Goddard.