No. 5 Las Vegas notches historic rout of Rancho

Angel Alvarez fought off the hold of a defender and snatched the ball from the air before crossing the goal line and setting off a raucous celebration in the Rancho bleachers as the Rams capped the opening drive of the third quarter Friday night with a spectacular touchdown.

That the spontaneous outburst of enthusiasm occurred in the midst of a 70-6 thrashing at the hands of archrival Las Vegas at Rancho is indicative of how one-sided this storied rivalry has become.

The No. 5-ranked Wildcats (3-1, 1-0 Northeast League) scored 56 first-half points on 17 offensive plays en route to their 18th straight victory in the “Bone Game.” The 70 points and 64-point margin of victory set records in the history of the series, which dates to 1957.

“Never let down. Don’t underestimate anybody,” Las Vegas senior running back Andrew Moreland said of the Wildcats’ mindset going into the game. “None of us on this team want to be the ones to lose that streak, so we’re going to play our hearts out for it every year.”

The Wildcats went 54 yards in four plays to score on the opening drive and then stopped Rancho in three plays and blocked the punt before quickly scoring again.

The teams agreed to go to a running clock after the Wildcats went up 56-0 with 8:28 left in the second quarter.

“The kids know they don’t want to be the ones to make a silly mistake and slip up,” Las Vegas coach James Thurman said. “Appalachian State beat Michigan a few years ago, and North Dakota State just beat Kansas State. Strange things happen in football, and they don’t want to be the ones to let down. We want to play to our level, not to anyone else’s.”

The numbers the Wildcats put up, particularly in the first half, were staggering.

Las Vegas scored 56 points before halftime, averaging 16.1 yards per snap. The Wildcats racked up 273 yards and held the Rams to 31 in the first 24 minutes.

Moreland finished with 132 yards rushing and two touchdowns on six carries, and Elias Miller ran for 121 yards and two scores on three carries. The Wildcats ran the ball 11 times, and five of those plays went for touchdowns.

With the clock running continuously, Las Vegas ran just one meaningful play in the second half before a series of late kneel-downs. Miller made the best of the one play, racing 73 yards up the middle for a score. Justin Taitague added a 49-yard punt return for a TD in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got to keep the trophy at home. It’s always a tough game, and that’s the mindset we have to go in with every time against them,” said Miller, who also recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a score. “It’s fun. I love it. It makes you love the game more and more when you can have a game like this.”

Rancho (0-5, 0-1) was held to minus-62 yards on the ground, and none of the four players to carry the ball finished with positive yards. Quarterback Maxwell Luarca threw for 141 yards and the touchdown, and Christopher Porter had six catches for 80 yards.

“It’s a special game to be part of here in town,” Thurman said. “It’s an awesome atmosphere with both stands filled. It’s the way high school football should be every week, but unfortunately it’s not. The alums on both sides are so proud of their schools, and there are people in these stands from ages 3 to 93. It’s great for the kids to be part of, and we’re happy to be on the right side of it again.”

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