Last week when I gratuitously mentioned that I wouldn't be going to this game because of our 50th anniversary celebration, I had not realized that the game was in Las Cruces despite La Cueva being the higher seeded team (i.e., I couldn't have gone anyway). La Cueva had beaten Mayfield the last two times they met there. The third time wasn't a charm.
A few days before this game, the mother of a Manzano player (the team everyone expected to meet La Cueva in the finals) told my wife and me that Daniels had three broken fingers and the Manzano team was hoping this would slow Daniels down enough for Mayfield to upset them. I've not seen the injury confirmed anywhere, but it would appear that they got their wish. The injury could explain Daniels' fumbles and apparent lack of pass receptions.
Recall that in addition to handling the ball on 75 percent of their offensive plays, Daniels played defense, punted, and returned punts and kickoffs. One reason the game became the Ronnie Daniels show on offense was that the other half of the "salt-and-pepper" backfield duo was injured in the first half and didn't return. I'm surprised that his teammates didn't have to carry Daniels off the field. Perhaps despite his condition, Daniels should have gone through the handshake line after the game, but IMHO booing him showed lack of class on the part of the Mayfield fans.
Through 12 games Daniels rushed for 2,841 yards in 295 carries (9.6 per carry) and scored 42 touchdowns (including one on a recovered fumble). He also made some key pass receptions.
I look forward to confirmation that Daniels has enrolled at Tech for the spring semester. I think we have a winner here who will be fun to watch for the next 4-5 years.
All block quotes are from the Albuquerque Journal.
November 26, 2010
La Cueva 17 - Las Cruces Mayfield 21
The Mayfield Trojans exacted the perfect revenge Friday night. And the Ronnie Daniels era at La Cueva is over.
Ricky Milks and Brandon Betancourt each rushed for more than 100 yards and combined for all three touchdowns, and the Trojans survived a 52-carry, 357-yard performance by Daniels as No. 6 Mayfield upset the second-seeded Bears 21-17 in a Class 5A football semifinal at the Field of Dreams.
La Cueva (10-2) had beaten Mayfield 45-12 earlier this season on the same field. The Bears also handled the Trojans 31-14 in last year's state championship game.
"That first game," Trojans' defensive tackle Matt Ramondo said, "we came out timid. Everyone had to face their fears this game. They played a hell of a game, but in the end, it was us. It's a team game, not one person."
That comment was targeted at Daniels, who was on the field for almost every play and clearly was exhausted at the end. Daniels did not go through the line and shake hands after the game. He walked off the field to some hearty boos from the Mayfield crowd.
The Texas Tech-bound La Cueva tailback had the ball for more than 75 percent of the Bears' snaps, and his 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter opened the game's scoring. But unlike that first meeting in October, there were no huge momentum-swinging runs for Daniels.
...the Bears turned the ball over three times - twice on fumbles by Daniels, the last with 5:10 remaining and La Cueva driving for what would have been the go-ahead score.
The Bears turned a 49-yard kickoff return by Daniels into a 28-yard Eric Stabile field goal on the following possession to lead 10-7.
Zach Nelson's 1-yard TD on a quarterback sneak - set up by a 19-yard run by Daniels on a fake punt moments earlier - put the Bears up 17-14 with 8:38 to go.
November 19, 2010
La Cueva 21 - Clovis 14
When the La Cueva Bears needed him the most, Ronnie Daniels stepped up and delivered in a 21-14 victory over Clovis in a Class 5A state football quarterfinal game Friday night at Wilson Stadium. And the senior running back established a single-season state rushing record in the process.
Daniels capped a nine-play, 77-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown run with 1:44 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The victory sends second-seeded La Cueva (10-1) into the semifinals against No. 6 seed Mayfield next week.
"I was kind of angry, but it was tough at the end," Daniels said. "They came out ready to play and we came out a little flat, but we got it together that last drive."
With the game tied at 14 and 5:44 remaining, the Bears started from their 23-yard line by handing the ball off to Daniels for three straight runs to reach the Clovis 48-yard line. After a holding penalty pushed La Cueva back to its 42, quarterback Zach Nelson found Daniels all alone on the left sideline for a 21-yard reception. Daniels added two more runs and Andrew Kline added an 8-yard run to put the ball at the 12. A holding call on the next play pushed the Bears back to the 22, but Daniels took the ball on 1st-and-20 and ran a sweep right for the winning score.
"Ronnie just made some pretty big plays," Bears coach Fred Romero said.
Daniels finished the game with 257 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. He has 2,484 rushing yards for the season, breaking the mark of 2,378 set by Fort Sumner's Lance Fikany in 2002.
"I guess it's just icing on the cake because right now I'm just working to help my team win a state championship," Daniels said.
November 5, 2010
La Cueva 55 - Manzano 56
To call Friday night's showdown between No. 1 La Cueva and No. 2 Manzano a game for the ages is, in hindsight, almost an understatement. The Monarchs overcame a 250-yard, seven-touchdown performance from Ronnie Daniels and beat the Bears 56-55 in a stunning showcase at Wilson Stadium./snip/
La Cueva (9-1, 2-1) had gone in front 55-48 on Daniels' seventh TD of the night, a 59-yard run. It was the last of his 250 yards. He rushed for six scores and took a middle screen for a long touchdown.
Daniels broke no fewer than three state records in this game. He broke the state's career scoring mark, with 612 points. The previous record was 607 set by Gadsden's Sal Gonzales, and that record had stood since 1956. Daniels' seven scores also gave him the single-season touchdown record. He has 38; the previous mark was 37, shared by two players. Daniels also has the single-season rushing TD mark, with 35. Lance Fikany of Fort Sumner had the record (34). And, with his next TD, Daniels will break the single-season scoring record. He has 228 points; the record is 232 by Jal's Brian Beckham (1985).
October 29, 2010
La Cueva 35 - Eldorado 7
Top-ranked La Cueva got 238 yards rushing from Ronnie Daniels - who also surpassed 2,000 yards for the season - and two touchdown passes from Zach Nelson as the Bears beat No. 4 Eldorado 35-7 Friday night at a jam-packed Wilson Stadium.
The Bears had a 21-point explosion in the second quarter, which is not unusual for them. What was so odd about those 12 minutes was that Daniels carried the ball only once. But that carry produced a thrilling 64-yard touchdown run with 10:24 left in the half. It was the game's first touchdown.
On the next La Cueva series, Daniels was the classic decoy as the Bears went to fullback Andrew Kline. But Nelson did throw a 12-yard pass to Daniels on a key third-and-9 from the Eldorado 27.
Near the end of the half, La Cueva lined up Daniels wide. "We went to him earlier on that third down and they were sitting about 10 yards off of him," explained Nelson. "Me and Ronnie looked at each other and we saw that (cornerback) was coming in a little bit and we thought we could get it deep, so I just laid it out there for him." The ensuing 51-yard hookup put La Cueva in front 21-0. "I always thought we could pass," said Daniels, who carried 23 times. "I knew it was just a matter of time until we were all connecting."
On La Cueva's first series of the second half, the Bears went 90 yards in two plays. It was Daniels for 20, then Daniels for 70.
October 22, 2010
La Cueva 54 - Sandia 6
Ronnie Daniels wasn't expecting to receive a game ball in the first quarter Friday night. Truth was, he'd have preferred to wait.
Daniels, La Cueva High School's star senior running back, broke New Mexico's career rushing record with a 9-yard carry early in the Bears' 54-6 demolition of Sandia at Wilson Stadium. He eclipsed the 5,711-yard standard of Fort Sumner's Lance Fikany. When the night ended, Daniels had rushed for 197 yards, increasing his career total to 5,883. But in the first quarter, Daniels wasn't thinking about records or game balls. "We were marching for a touchdown," Daniels said. "That's really all I was focused on." So, when the game was stopped, Daniels told referee Steve Barela not to bother.
"When Ronnie gets in his game mode, he doesn't want people talking to him or anything like that," La Cueva coach Fred Romero said. "That whole presentation caught us by surprise, too, but it was nice. That is a big deal."
The Bears scored on all three of their third-quarter drives and invoked the 35-point mercy rule before Daniels went to the bench to consider his rushing record. "It shows a lot of hard work through the years," Daniels said, "especially by our linemen. They really made this happen. Give them credit."
October 14, 2010
La Cueva 49 - Cibola 14
La Cueva senior running back Ronnie Daniels overwhelmed the Cibola defense for 324 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 17 carries Thursday night as Class 5A's No. 1-ranked Bears routed the No. 8 Cougars 49-14 at Wilson Stadium.
Daniels' fourth touchdown of the game broke the state record of 87 career scores, held by former Fort Sumner standout Lance Fikany (1999-2002). Daniels would later push the mark to 89.
"It feels good," Daniels said. "I didn't even know going into the game I was that close, though. It feels good accomplishing it. But I couldn't have done it without my team."
The Bears (7-0) built a 35-0 lead at halftime against Cibola (3-4), all on touchdown runs by Daniels. The senior finished 26 yards shy of breaking the state record for career rushing.
Daniels said he was unaware he had gotten so close, but with La Cueva up 49-14 early in the fourth quarter, his night was done
"I had already asked (Bears coach Fred Romero) to go in, because I was trying to get to six touchdowns for the day," Daniels said. "If I had known that, I would have asked him (again).
"But there's always another game, another day to get those last few yards. I'm just enjoying this win with my team."
That next game is a week from tonight against District 2-5A foe Sandia.
Daniels scored La Cueva's first touchdown on the game's opening drive, a 6-yard scamper on second-and-goal.
On the Bears' third possession, Daniels had a 67-yard TD.
His third touchdown was a 28-yard run and his fourth was for 6 yards.
"He's just something special," Romero said. "A lot of times it looked like some plays there he wasn't going to go anywhere, and all of a sudden he cuts it up, breaks a couple tackles and he's gone."
Daniels' most impressive run did not result in a score, but he did take the ball from the Bears' 19 to the Cougars' 1, cutting across the field multiple times. Daniels scored on the next play for his fifth TD.
October 2, 2010
La Cueva 45 - Las Cruces Mayfield 12
Mayfield's football coach, Michael Bradley, was very careful to talk about the La Cueva Bears as anything but a one-man show. In general, he's right. In the first half of Saturday's much-anticipated showdown between the Trojans and Bears, however, he couldn't have been more wrong.
The Ronnie Daniels Farewell Tour stopped in Las Cruces on a steamy afternoon, and he left a lasting impression, even breaking a state record along the way. The senior tailback had 197 yards and four touchdowns at the Field of Dreams, all in the first half.
Daniels also had two interceptions and two key blocks on the same touchdown run by teammate Stan Sedberry, and the top-ranked Bears rocked No. 4 Mayfield 45-12.
"I'm gonna hate to see him go," a tearful La Cueva coach Fred Romero said.
Daniels upped the 'wow' factor considerably Saturday with what was his best performance of the season. He finished with 24 carries for 212 yards, but Daniels hadn't shown much of this type of running this year: determined, slippery, even angry. "He was like the old Ronnie Daniels," Romero said.
Daniels scored a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter, which, according to nmact.org, established a state record for career rushing touchdowns (80).
Before this season ends, Daniels is also likely to break records in career rushing yards, career touchdowns and rushing yards in a season, And he could set marks in career points, plus touchdowns in a season. "I want them all," a smiling Daniels said. "If I can get them, why not get them?"
Daniels has 20 TDs this year, 19 rushing and one fumble return. "It's something for him to look back on," said Romero. "He doesn't want to be remembered as just another guy, but as a really special football player."
A 58-yard Daniels TD run made it 17-6, but the Trojans' Ricky Milks took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a score to make it 17-12 La Cueva midway through the second quarter. From that moment, the Bears seized complete control. Daniels added TD runs of 29 and 22 yards before halftime and had 140 rushing yards in the second quarter as La Cueva led 31-12 at the break.
"He's a very good back and awesome to watch," said Bradley.
Sedberry, the "salt" half of a self-described "salt-and-pepper" act, had TD runs covering 83 and 72 yards in the third quarter. On the latter, Daniels knocked down not one but two Mayfield defenders.
"He's just as good as me," Daniels said of Sedberry. "Just as fast, just as big. And he likes to be physical."
September 25, 2010
La Cueva 56 – Highland 20
Ronnie Daniels and the La Cueva Bears ran roughshod over the Highland Hornets, 56-20, Friday night at Milne Stadium.
Daniels rushed for 200 yards and four touchdowns on 11 carries as the No. 1-ranked Bears (5-0) outgained the Hornets (3-2), 527 total yards to 282.
"We felt like we had to come out the same way we usually do," Daniels said. "We knew they were a good team going into the game. We prepared hard for them. We were just able to come out and execute our plays."
Daniels had a 9-yard touchdown run to cap the Bears' opening drive, an 85-yard run on a fake punt from the La Cueva 15 to make it 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, a 55-yard scamper in the second quarter to make it 35-0 and a 14-yard burst to make it 42-6.
From scouting, La Cueva saw a vulnerability in Highland's punt return formation.
"We thought we might be able to get a first down," Daniels said of the fake punt, which came on a fourth-and-24. "I just went for it."
La Cueva coach Fred Romero said it was Daniels' call on the field.
"Sometimes we leave it up to Ronnie to look at that and if he sees something, obviously we were deep in our territory, but he decided it looked pretty good for him," Romero said. "So he took the green light and ran."
After a Highland fumble, Daniels ran for his 55-yard touchdown on the subsequent play.
September 19, 2010
La Cueva 55 - Rio Grande 0
Ronnie Daniels had 219 yards on just 12 carries, and scored three touchdowns in the top-ranked Bears' victory.
Daniels had a 65-yard touchdown run just 13 seconds into the game. He added TD runs of 1 and 37 yards.
The Bears on Saturday rushed for 403 yards in 2 1/2 quarters. Unofficially, Daniels has 906 yards through four games.
September 11, 2010
La Cueva 41 - Clovis 21
La Cueva senior running back Ronnie Daniels rushed for 301 yards and three touchdowns Friday night, leading the top-ranked Bears past Clovis 41-21 at Leon Williams Stadium.
Daniels had his hands on the ball in 33 of his team's 42 snaps from scrimmage. He has almost 800 yards rushing in three games.
"He really ran hard tonight against a tough defense, and we knew it was going to be tough coming down here," said La Cueva coach Fred Romero of Daniels. "He draws a lot of attention and opens up a lot of things for us."
Daniels scored on runs of 57, 5 and 31 yards. The 57-yarder occurred just 41 seconds into the game.
"They're just an awfully good football team and if you don't tackle 22 (Daniels) then you can't beat 'em - and we didn't tackle 22 all night," Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said. "It seemed like he had 400 or 500 (yards) seeing him run up and down the field."
September 3, 2010
La Cueva 48 - Valley 7
Ronnie Daniels had 194 yards and three touchdowns, and the La Cueva defense almost pitched another shutout as the Bears rolled Valley 48-7 on Thursday night at a fiercely windy Wilson Stadium.
Friday, No. 1 La Cueva travels to third-ranked Clovis for 5A's first major swing game of 2010. "It's a very important game,"said senior Bears center Charlie Casey. "Going into a place like Clovis? There's no place like it in New Mexico."
August 26, 2010
La Cueva 42 - Volcano Vista 0
Daniels, of course, got his -- 192 relatively quiet yards on 24 carries in just over three quarters of work. He had a 24-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter as La Cueva went in front 14-0, and his longest scamper was a 30-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter.
But none of his carries proved to be the most memorable touch of his evening. For the first time as a Bear, Daniels scored a defensive touchdown. He picked up an Otis Singleton fumble and went 25 yards early in the second half as the Bears amassed a 21-0 lead. "I was just in the right place at the right time," Daniels said. "Once we found our rhythm, we just went with it." It took some getting used to, watching Daniels as a regular defender, but he and Sedberry, as bookend linebackers, were part of an impressive attack.
July 23, 2010
Dynamic La Cueva RB Set Myriad Records for 5A Champions
The ties that bind mattered most when it came time for Ronnie Daniels to make the biggest decision of his life.
The La Cueva senior, one of the highest-profile running backs the state has seen in years, offered a verbal commitment to Texas Tech's football program earlier this week.
Daniels said the Red Raiders' new coaching staff and a revamped offensive scheme helped push Tech to the top of his wish list.
What put the Raiders over the top, however, was the fact that his mother, his aunt and his grandfather all attended the school.
"There's a lot of history there," Daniels said. "It's not like my family ever tried to persuade me to go there but it's one of the schools I know a lot about just because of what I've heard."
A 6-foot-2, 205-pound back with 4.5 speed and remarkable field vision, Daniels broke many La Cueva records while leading the Bears to the Class 5A state championship last season. He rushed for 2,248 yards and 31 touchdowns despite missing nearly three full games with a shoulder injury.
He totaled more than 2,500 all-purpose yards and had four more touchdowns on special teams and receiving.
He was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year in December and has been the subject of a growing recruiting war since the end of his sophomore season.
He said he received a dozen scholarship offers from schools ranging from the Big Ten to the Pac-10. He narrowed his list to five after visiting a Tech camp June 6.
"I had it down to Tech, New Mexico, (Arizona), Illinois and Minnesota," he said.
He quickly ruled out the Big Ten schools because of distance. The fact that Tech gets more national exposure than UNM and Arizona didn't hurt, either.
"The chance to play in a big conference like that is something I like," he said.
Tech has already received verbal commitments from three prep running backs this summer. Daniels said the idea of being labeled a running back was something he liked from Tech coach Tommy Tuberville's staff.
Tech originally recruited Daniels as a receiver, then changed its approach after he had a breakout performance at the team's June camp.
"They started off saying they might use me outside, then after that week they talked about me as a running back," Daniels said. "I guess they didn't really think I was as big or as fast as everyone said I was, at least not big enough to run the ball."
The Raiders officially offered Daniels a scholarship on the final day of the camp. He said it took a few weeks to weigh his options before making a firm decision.
"I'm 100 percent on this," he said. "Basically I didn't want it to be a distraction to my (La Cueva) teammates. Making my decision now puts all that stuff away before the season even starts."
As for the Lobo fans who feel jilted by Daniels' choice, keep in mind that UNM has a nonconference game against the Red Raiders in each of the next three years, two of which are in Albuquerque.