The ultimate long shot: Cleveland grabs the 5A men’s soccer crown

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RIO RANCHO — Cleveland’s Brayan Ramirez hammered the opening second-half kickoff from more than 60 yards into the back of the net on Saturday, setting the momentum for another upset for the Cinderella Storm in championship football Class 5A Boys State School.

This time, the No. 2 Centennial (20-2-1) suffered a 2-0 loss.

He completed an unlikely scenario for the 12th seed Storm (13-6-5), who snuck into the tournament as the final team and then hit the road to beat No. 5 Albuquerque High, No. 4 Hobbs and No. 1 Volcano Vista before finally returning to their home turf for the championship game against the No. 2 Hawks (20-2-1).

After a scoreless first half in which neither side got much of an advantage, Ramirez turned the game around in a hurry.

“I saw the keeper come off his line,” he said. “At the start of the season I did the same thing (against Sandia) so I thought I might as well give it a shot. There is nothing to lose at this point.

Although he’s done it before, Ramirez said it’s not a game he plays.

“I just hit the ball and was hoping it would hit somewhere near the goal,” he said with a shrug.

Instead, he didn’t stop before slamming into the string.

“Every time we see the keeper is way too far out of position, why not? Why not?” asked Storm coach Shaun Gill. “Brayan is a pretty smart and pretty good player and that’s what he did and he just put the ball in the back of the net.”

Like previous upsets, Cleveland lost to Centennial earlier in the season.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but the last few games every team we’ve beaten has beaten us, so redemption games,” Ramirez said. “And play to win because we had nothing to lose.”

Ramirez took his place in the 58th minute after picking up a second yellow card, leaving Cleveland down to one man.

But that didn’t dampen the storm as Justin Cantrell finished off a cross from Domonic Aguilar in the 63rd minute to pad the cushion.

Making the Storm’s success even more remarkable, the team entered the summer without a goalie. So the second Joaquin Armijo volunteered for the job.

“He’s an outfield player that we had to throw in the goal out of necessity,” Gill said. “He held that position. Best goalkeeper in the state as far as I’m concerned.

Armijo, who made eight saves in the game, credited goalkeeper coach Andrew Hinkle with helping him make the transition.

“He was the one who was with me during summer training,” Armijo said. “All the exercises he did with me, it’s because of him that I’m here right now. I put in the work and the effort and he told me what to do And we won a championship state because of this.

No. 12 CLEVELAND 2, No. 1 CENTENNIAL 0

Cleveland 0 2- -2

Centenary 0 0- -0

Scoring: Cl, 41st, Brayan Ramirez (unaided); CL, 63rd, Justin Cantrell (Dominic Aguilar). Penalties: Cl 5; Ce 8. CK: Cl 2; 1. Stops: Cl, Joaquin Armijio 8; This, Manuel Melendez 3.

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