(Featured photo by Marty Saiz)
By Mark “Ticky” Smith
Enchanted Sports Editor in Chief
This week’s Enchantment Sports Galles Metro Player of the Week came up short against next week’s Player of the Week on Thursday night at Wilson Stadium, as No. 1 Cleveland beat No. 2 Eldorado 42-28.
“Uh, Ticky – isn’t tonight (Sept. 7) Friday prep football night? Aren’t nearly all games played tonight or Saturday?
“What’s with this ‘next’s week’s winner’ before the games are played?”
Good question, New Mexico high school football fan.
And I’ll tell you what, if anyone else tonight or Saturday rushes for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns, I’ll reconsider,
In the meantime, next week’s honor is a lock.
In a performance that recalled those of Sandia’s Mike Carter, West Mesa’s Ray Barrs and Hobbs’ Timmy Smith, Cleveland junior running back Dorian Lewis had a night for the ages.
Immediate records were not known, but it’s possible his name will top the state all-time list for a single game.
The transfer from El Paso Andress carried 37 times for a remarkable 402 yards and five touchdowns in a long and odd game at Wilson Stadium that started after a 35-minute lightning delay.
Despite the once-in-a-lifetime performance – at least until next week – everyone downplayed the masterful outing, including Lewis.
“I’m not worried about me, this is all the team,” said the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Lewis. It’s all about my offensive line; they were amazing.”
Dude 402? Has that hit you?
“No sir, it’s a team thing, they all grind with me. They blast up front and I run.”
Around tacklers, Through tacklers and side-stepping tacklers with a patience reminiscent of NFL star Le’Veon Bell.
“He’s a good one,” said Eldorado coach Charlie Dotson, “but that’s a great team. They were just better than we were. That’s the best team in the state right now.”
On the Storm’s second play from scrimmage, Lewis busted up the middle for a 35-yard TD romp.
Eldorado QB Gabe Smith, this week’s Enchantment Sports Player of the Week, fumbled on his team’s next possession and Cleveland’s Randy Nieto soon took his turn up the gut for a 41-yard score. It 14-0 less than four minutes into the game.
On a number of occasions, the Eagles looked outgunned. But each time they appeared finished, they stormed right back.
Time and again, the Eagles had a chance to really put the heat on, but they shot themselves in the foot with dropped passes, failed fourth-down attempts, turnovers, big losses to kill momentum and penalties.
“Back and forth, there were a lot of momentum swings,” said Cleveland coach Heath Ridenour. “We made some really big plays when we needed them.
“It was a good effort on Dorian’s part, but a tremendously selfless effort by everybody. We said we were going to run the ball and put the load on the offensive line. Even doing the things he does, he couldn’t do it without having these kids in front fighting for him.
“He shined on a big stage, but just a lot of credit goes to the guys in front.” Smith, who combined for nine TDs in the Eagles’ 70-42 romp at Las Cruces last week, was shaky with the fumble and an interception at the goal line on the first half.
But the crafty and elusive Smith could not be stopped on QB draws or scrambles, and he scored on a 6-yard run with 8:14 in the half to cut it to 14-7.
The Eagles were threatening late in the half, but were stopped on a fourth-and-1 at the Cleveland 47 with 1:30 left. Thee plays later – all Lewis runs – and the Storm led 21-7 at half. Lewis’ second TD came on a 16-yard romp.
EHS made it 21-14 midway through the third quarter on a 16-yard TD strike from Smith to Zach Hofman and the Eagles forced a Cleveland punt on its next possession.
EHS would drive from its own 15 to the Storm 12, but had a dropped pass in the end zone on 4th-and-6 from the Cleveland 12.
Again, it was a quick Storm strike. Three plays later, and Lewis blasted 68 yards with 2:06 left in the period to make it 28-14.
Not by any means.
A Smith 6-yard TD run cut it back to a seven-point deficit with 21 seconds left in the third quarter, but Lewis capped a 61-yard march on the next possession with a 9-yard score with 9:38 left. And it was 35-21. Smith was 11-of-26 for 214 yards, two touchdowns and the one pick. He had 21 carries for 245 yards.
The Golden Eagles dared one more comeback. Smith hit Trey Duran for a 35-yard TD with 8:25 left and EHS got the ball right back on a punt.
And fumbled the punt away.
Lewis capped a quick 17-yard drive with a 1-yard blast for the final score of the night with 5:21 left.
The Bears got the ball back one more time, and while working on the clock, Lewis ripped off a run of 29 yards that sent him over the 400 mark on the second-to-the-final play.
“We moved up here for family reasons, and when I got here it just feet like home,” Lewis said of moving from El Paso to Rio Rancho. “I wish I would have been here at Cleveland all three years.”
A little irony? The nickname for Smith’s school last year, was the Golden Eagles.
Lewis was his district’s Player of the Year as a sophomore in El Paso.
He said both Texas Tech and UCLA watched him last year, but “there aren’t are a lot of schools recruiting me yet.”
Ridenour said he tipped his hat to Eagles and their constant fight, “but that’s what we always get from them. We have had some great games.
“I love playing Eldorado, because they are coached so well at all phases of the game. They are so technically sound, and fundamentally sound. You know where you stand after you play them.”
Where Cleveland stands right now is where it stood each of the first two weeks.
And this time with a bullet.
A bullet and a cannon named Dorion Lewis, and his Stormtoopers up front.
NOTE: Like all high school football statistics, the numbers are unofficial. Unlike basketball, there isn’t an official scorekeeper for statistics. And because of holding penalties, marked from the spot, Lewis had a number of long runs called back because of flags. But he gets some yardage on those plays, pending where the ball is marked. Other observers trying to keep up with Lewis and his mesmerizing night, had him for as many as 416 yards and as few as 384. We had 402, but that could change after the Storm watches its game film.
Mark Smith has been in New Mexico sports journalism for four decades and is the editor-in-chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com or EnchantmentSportsNM@gmail.com.