It was a difficult Friday night under the lights for all three Valencia County high school football teams. Belen, Los Lunas and Valencia all lost at home, with VHS falling in gut-wrenching fashion.
Belen High School
The Valley Vikings used a potent running game to spoil homecoming for Belen, winning 42-7 Friday at Eagles Stadium.
The game was scoreless until late in the first quarter when the Vikings’ Richard Henderson took a direct snap and powered in from two yards out to make it 7-0.
“Valley was a lot more physical than I thought,” BHS head coach Kevin Peña said. “They just beat us up in the trenches.”
In the second quarter, Belen held Valley deep in the Vikings’ own territory when a strange break got VHS out of trouble. The punt hit the back of the Vikings’ center, flew to the punter who grabbed it and raced 15 yards for a first down.
The Eagles were able to stop that drive thanks in part to Manuel Marquez who deflected a pass on third down. However, another miscue on a Belen punt gave Valley the ball at the 25-yard line and they quickly scored on another Henderson short run.
The Vikings led 21-0 at the break in a half that saw both teams combine for only a handful of passes.
The Eagles had their best sequence of the game in the third quarter. The defense stopped Valley on a fourth and goal play, followed by a 33-yard run from Derian Rodriguez. That set up a 41 yard catch and run by Jesse Vasquez on a pass from Hunter Garcia and the Eagles cut the lead to 21-7 at the 5:10 mark of the third quarter.
“I was surprised to get the ball there because I got hit by a middle linebacker,” Vasquez said. “The next thing you know I had the ball,” and then it was a sprint to the end zone.
The BHS momentum quickly faded in the fourth quarter. Valley scored three unanswered touchdowns, including one on an interception return by Julian Munez. Belen’s record drops to 1-3 with the 42-7 loss, while Valley is now 3-1.
Peña said many of the players were not ready, distracted by homecoming festivities.
“We’re going to get guys that want to play,” Peña said, adding that they need more depth. “We got seven guys who are going both ways and they’re just dead tired by the third (quarter.) We’re just getting banged around on both sides of the ball-I hope the fans stay with us.”
At 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16, the Eagles host Deming.
Los Lunas High School
After compiling a 16-game winning streak over two seasons, the Tigers have now lost two games in a row, falling to Roswell 35-23.
Quarterback Paul Cieremans returned to the lineup for the Tigers but the offense continued to struggle. The Coyotes took a 7-0 first quarter lead on a 28 yard touchdown pass.
LLHS moved inside the 10-yard line but had to settle for a short field goal by Kaden Bell to pull within 7-3.
After the Tigers’ recovered a fumble at the Roswell seven-yard line, Fabian Trujillo carried it into the end zone and Los Lunas was in front 10-7.
The lead exchanged hands three times in the second quarter, with Cash Aragon scoring for the Tigers but the Coyotes answered with less than a minute to go in the half to make it 21-17.
Roswell got into the end zone on the first drive of the third quarter and after LLHS was stopped on fourth down inside the Roswell 10-yard line, a passing touchdown gave the Coyotes a 35-17 lead.
A Cieremans to Kaiden Reese 24-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter completed the scoring. LLHS head coach Greg Henington said the Tigers did some very good things but were too inconsistent. Henington said the Tigers lost what he called the “leverage” battle.
“All across the board. You can’t really put it on one unit or another,” Henington observed.
The 38-23 setback leaves Los Lunas with a 2-2 record while Roswell improves to 3-1. The Tigers, in their first year in 6A, continue to deal with a tough schedule as La Cueva visits Los Lunas on Friday.
“No breaks at all,” Henington noted about the schedule. “It’s good for us in the long run as long if we respond correctly and stay together.”
Valencia High School
Valencia lost a heartbreaking home game to unbeaten Portales 34-28.
Head coach Wesley Shank reported the Jaguars were leading by one point and driving for a touchdown with less than a minute to go in the game when they lost a fumble at the one yard line. The Rams then drove 99 yards for the game-winning score.
VHS quarterback Rey Sanchez had one rushing touchdown as well as a 23-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Farless. The Jags also had a touchdown on the ground from Matthew Chavez.
Valencia’s Adriano Ortiz and Cade Ash each scored on two-point conversations. The VHS defense came up with several big plays including two interceptions.
The Jaguars “played really well at times,” according to Shank, but “we were not disciplined.”
Shank said 11 penalties and 31 mental mistakes “were too costly and too much to overcome.”
The Jaguars are now 1-2, and host Santa Teresa at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16. Portales is now 4-0.
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.