NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – High school football practice opened across the state Monday, signifying the start of the 2021 season. The Cleveland Storm won the first and only 6A bowl game to honor a champion in the 2020 COVID-19 shortened season. The Storm beat Las Cruces 56-7 in that game as they finished undefeated. A lot of seniors on that team have since graduated.
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The 2021 version of the Cleveland Storm lacks experience, but talent, numbers, size and skill players are in the fold. After last season’s COVID year, coaches and players are just thankful to get back on the field. “We had a meeting at 5:30 this morning,” said Cleveland Head Coach Heath Ridenour. “You know, the kids were dressed, in their seats, ready to go at 5:30 this morning. We talked about just being thankful for the opportunity to be here. We put everything back into perspective and quit looking at it like it’s earlier. It’s going to be hot and this or that. We put it into perspective that a year ago we weren’t here.”
Linebacker Stratton Shufelt agrees with his coach. “It’s a blessing that we’re able to be out here, you know, starting two a days. It’s just all around just got to be grateful for it. It’s football. It’s nothing better than that.” As they prepare for their first game, Cleveland continues to look for a starter at quarterback. Jeff Davidson, now at New Mexico State University, was the steady hand the last three seasons. He and the talented Luke Wysong, who is now with the New Mexico Lobos, proved to be a lethal combination against opponents.
“We got two guys that are fighting for that position,” said Ridenour. “One is a sophomore, Elijah Brody, who reminds me a lot of Jeff, just his mannerisms and his understanding of the game and his ability to just command respect and things from his team. Then you got Evan whose going to be a junior and Wysong. He has a lot of the playmaking ability of his brother, super competitive. His teammates are just naturally drawn to him in the way that he competes and the way that he works.”
Cleveland will start the season on the road in Las Cruces against Centennial on August 21.
In other sports news, Lobo football will start camp Wednesday night. Second-year Head Coach Danny Gonzales and his team is ready to go. “I am just excited to have the opportunity to compete and it speaks volumes about those guys believing in what we are doing, because normally when you have a transition, a regime change, kids are ready to get on out, especially, if they are on their tail end,” said Gonzales. “Well, we invited back 14 and those 14 are here. So, I am happy those guys want to be a part of it. They believe in what we are doing and it’s just going to help us be more successful.”
The Lobos will start the season at home on Septenber 2 against Houston Baptist.
Albuquerque Isotopes slugger Taylor Motter is the Triple-A West Player of the Week for July 26 through Aug. 1. Motter’s bat has been on fire of late. Motter, 31, slashed .450/.538/1.100 during the week to go along with four home runs, 14 RBI and five walks. He was first in RBI, tied for first in home runs, second in total bases (22) and slugging percentage and finished third in OPS (1.638) during the span.
Lastly, the Toronto Blue Jays three-game win streak has come to an end. Cleveland defeated Toronto 5-2 Monday in 10 innings. Jose Ramirez hit a two-run shot in the 10th inning with the score at 3-2 Cleveland.