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The running game and defense carry Belen past Manzano, 52-0

Belen High School

It was a milestone last Thursday as the Belen Eagles’ defeated Manzano 52-0 at Wilson Stadium.

Not only was it the Eagles’ first victory of the season, it was the initial win as a head coach for Kevin Peña. According to information compiled by assistant coaches, you have to go back 5,410 days to 2007 to find a BHS football victory with a Belen native, Kevin Benavidez, as head coach.

“It’s exciting, kind of special for me,” Peña said on the field after the victory. “My last high school game was on this field when we beat Manzano. Yeah, it’s pretty exciting for me.”

Despite the historical significance, the game had little drama with the Eagles scoring 35 unanswered points in the first quarter. Almost all of the damage by the BHS offense was on the ground with the Eagles throwing just two passes the entire game.

Belen had five touchdowns rushing, including three by Diego Avila.

“I think we all got to showcase what we had today. I really enjoyed this game,” Avila said.

Derian Rodriguez and Ethan Thomas also had rushing touchdowns, while quarterback Hunter Garcia was 1-1 passing, a 29 yard touchdown to Elijah Romero.

Credit the defense for the other touchdown, with Cutter Houston recovering a fumble for a score. The defense, overall was outstanding, registering four sacks and forcing four turnovers.  Frankie Rocha had an interception and a fumble recovery.

Placekicker Nehamiah Sanchez added a 19-yard field goal and was seven for seven on extra points.

The 52-0 victory squares the Eagles record at 1-1, following an opening 45-0 loss to 6A Los Lunas. It was an impressive turnaround for BHS.

“The kids didn’t give up,” coach Peña said, referring to rebounding from last weeks’ loss. “Our kids came out to play today. Offensively and defensively — we just got after it.”

Pena was given the game ball for his first victory but he put the praise on his players.

“They played their hearts out. They wanted it; they don’t back down from anybody,” Peña said.

The Eagles go on the road Friday, Sept. 2, to face 2021 5A runner-up Artesia, which is 1-1 after a 69-48 loss to Hobbs.


Mike Powers|News-Bulletin photo
Valencia notches impressive victory over Del Norte, 43-6

Valencia High School

The Valencia Jaguars did not let an early Saturday morning start bother them, beating Del Norte 43-6 at Milne Stadium in Albuquerque for their first victory of the season.

The Jaguars fumbled away the opening kickoff, and two plays later the Knights took a 6-0 lead less than one minute into the game. But VHS would not allow a score the rest of the way.

“I was about to lose it in the first quarter,” VHS head coach Wesley Shank said after a pair of early turnovers were reminiscent of a seven turnover first half during the 41-0 season opening loss to Alamogordo.

But the VHS defense would not allow a score the rest of the way.

“They did well,” Shank said about his defense. “We had some new kids playing. They are learning as they go. They played hard. It’s good to see them improve.”

The next play after an interception for a touchdown by the Jaguars’ Tyler Farless was called back because of a penalty. Quarterback Rey Garcia found Adriano Ortiz all alone for a 77-yard scoring strike to tie the game at 6-6. The extra point was no good after a high snap.

With three minutes left in the second quarter, Cade Ash broke the deadlock with a 23-yard, over-the-shoulder catch to put Valencia ahead for good, 13-7. But the Jaguars weren’t done.

Garcia connected with Ortiz again with just six seconds remaining in the half. The two-point conversion gave the Jaguars a 21-6 lead at the break.

Valencia forced Del Norte to punt to start the third quarter and the Jaguars quickly scored again with Jorge Zuniga making a diving catch in the corner of the end zone. The successful two-point try put the Jags in control 29-6.

After an interception by Aidan Harrington, VHS was back in business. Ortiz carried the ball into the end zone from the two-yard line for another touchdown and the rout was on.

The Jaguars concluded the scoring with a Martin Chavez rushing touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Valencia improves to 1-1 with the 43-6 victory.

This was a not only a bounce back game for the Jaguars, it was a return to form for quarterback Garcia, who struggled against Alamogordo.

“You just turn the page; forget about it,” Garcia said.

Garcia finished with three touchdowns passing and one rushing. “It feels nice to throw to different people, keep them in the game. Have fun.”

VHS has a bye week and then hosts Portales on Friday, Sept.9.


Los Lunas brings a 2-0 record into the Tigers’ homecoming game against Farmington

Los Lunas High School

In a battle of Tigers, Los Lunas went on the road and defeated Alamogordo 43-30 Friday night.

It was the first meeting against a 6A school for each team after both moved up in classification this season.

Once again, LLHS relied on the running game to get the victory, piling up 222 yards on the ground.

“We ran the ball very well on a very big and aggressive defense,” said Los Lunas head coach Greg Henington, adding that Alamogordo played very physical, “which is exactly what we need.”

Quarterback Paul Cieremans rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown, while running back Cash Aragon had two touchdowns and 81 yards rushing.

Cieremans also had a 77-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Baca, while Ty Gould hit Fabian Trujillo on a 44-yard touchdown strike.

Henington said the defense played very well after making some minor adjustments. One concern for the Tigers is the number of penalties, close to 200 yards in two games according to Henington.

“A lot of it is learning to keep our mouths closed,” said Henington, “and just play football.”  The Tigers host Farmington at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 2 for homecoming.  The Scorpions are o-2 after losing to Durango 56-7.

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Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.