RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – The helmets are finally on as high school football teams around the state officially began training camps on Monday. The Cleveland Storm currently has the longest active winning streak in the state and they are ready to run it back in 2022.
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“I’m feeling really good,” said Cleveland head coach Robert Garza. “It’s an exciting time of year, everybody across the country, they’re setting out today to try to win a state championship and that’s exactly what we’re here trying to get ourselves prepared for.”
A state championship is something that Cleveland is no stranger to. The Storm enter the 2022 season coming off back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2021, as well as the shortened 2020 spring season. The team is currently riding a 22-game win streak and has not lost in over 1,000 days.
“You know it really defines who we are and what kind of team we are, but we got to stay focused on what our team is right now,” quarterback Evan Wysong said. ” Those past teams were very good… but we got to make this year’s team great and we got to accomplish the same goal as we accomplished last year and the year before that.”
It will be a new look for Cleveland in 2022. Longtime coach Heath Ridenour left the program during the offseason to join the UNM staff, and Robert Garza assumed control over the Storm. Garza has been coaching at Cleveland since the inaugural 2009 season and most recently served as the special team coordinator and inside linebackers coach.
“It’s a different role,” Garza said. “There’s been a lot of challenges along the way, and it’s been a great time for me, I’ve really enjoyed being able to accept the role and be able to rise to the challenges that have been put ahead of me. Obviously more responsibility, and it’s been great.”
Garza said that there won’t be too many changes schematically to what the team does in his first year thanks to the amount of consistency in the program. He mentioned the importance of offensive coordinator, Jason Hoffman, who has been with the program since 2012, and believes he is a major factor in the team’s success.
There will however be major changes in personnel. In total, there will be 18 new starters for Cleveland this season — nine on offense and nine on defense. The few returning starters know that there will be some growing pains, but believe there are pieces in place to dominate another season.
“It’s a fresh start it’s going to take a little time, a couple of weeks or so” said Wysong. “Everything started rolling in summer workouts, guys are really starting to come together. The offense started to bong, I started bonding with receivers, receivers came together with the O-line and it all started clicking. I think we’re going to be great.”
“Our defense is going to be all-around playing as a corps,” linebacker Stratton Shufelt said. “Our front seven, our secondary, everyone is going to be really united and we’re going to be pretty damn good.”
Cleveland opens the 2022 season on Friday, August 19 at home against Centennial.