Tuesday, November 22, 2011

LCHS quarterfinals loss to good Rio Rancho team can still be considered a letdown

Was Las Cruces High’s loss, in Saturday’s quarterfinals of the state football championships, to Rio Rancho a letdown?

For a team with state championship aspirations, it has to be.

The reality is that Rio Rancho is a good team, while LCHS wasn’t a perfect product this year.

The Bulldawgs played a soft schedule — they finished 8-3, with all their losses coming to winning teams while their District 3-5A schedule provided zero challenges outside of their regular-season finale defeat to Mayfield.

No. 5-ranked Rio Rancho, meanwhile, now stands at 9-3, with their three losses coming to Goddard, Eldorado and Cleveland — teams with combined records of 30-3.

The Rams run an effective run-and-shoot offense with quarterback Jason Fitzpatrick and running back Ulises Astorga.

In actuality, it was the Rams who could have been a top-four team in the state, while LCHS — which was vanilla all year and failed to address its issues as a run-only offense — could have played last weekend’s game on the road.

Rio Rancho is a clear underdog against No. 1-ranked Cleveland this weekend in the semifinals — LCHS probably wouldn’t have beaten the Storm either — but it will be interesting to see how the game plays out.

Still, rewinding to last weekend, it was the Bulldawgs who blew a 14-point halftime lead and gave up 48 points on their home field in a double-overtime loss to the Rams.

Different sports bring different expectations, and when dealing with high school football in Las Cruces it’s about playing for state championships.

The past three years, the Bulldawgs haven't.

In 2009, they lost to Sandia at home in the quarterfinals.

Last year they lost to Manzano on the road in a semifinal game they should have won — a 17-point halftime lead lost and getting the short end of a questionable non-touchdown call late cost them.

I’m not saying Las Cruces High is a sagging football program, because they’re not.

Certainly the losses of tight end/defensive end Geoff Segovia — a real difference maker — and his running mate Kamryn Dixon didn't help the team's cause in their attempt at state supremacy.

And, next year I expect the Bulldawgs to be just fine once again.

They’re still a playoff team — historically a top-four team for that matter.

That, and they've still beaten No. 2-ranked Mayfield four of the last five years — which in some respects is considered southern New Mexico's real Super Bowl.

But when it's been all said and done, the Trojans have had better playoff success of late, and a better state championship resume for that matter.

They’ll be playing in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday against Manzano in what should be an interesting matchup — an offensive shootout could be in store at the Field of Dreams.

You know, one of our local Class 5A teams have played in the state championship game 14 of the last 16 years — an unprecedented run in the city.

When it comes down to high school football in Las Cruces, playing for such hardware matters.

After losing at home in the state quarterfinals, the Bulldawgs have another long winter to think about falling short of such lofty expectations.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg

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