ALBUQUERQUE — Belen’s starting to hit its stride on both sides of the ball entering the final stretch, topping Valley 28-13 in Saturday’s District 5/6-5A football opener at Milne Stadium.
The Eagles (4-2, 1-0) are now riding a four-game winning streak, taking command right out of the gate with 21 unanswered first-quarter points against the Vikings (1-5, 0-1).
Off a pitch, Derian Rodriguez punched in a 6-yard touchdown run to get things started. After a botched Valley handoff attempt led to Belen’s Elijah Romero creating some separation for a 38-yard touchdown reception down the left side, Sam Tibbs tacked on a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0 after the opening quarter.
“We figured we had a chance to make some big plays… It was awesome to see the kids go out and execute,” Belen coach Andrew McCraw said. “We want them to scoot up with the run. And if we can, we want to get it over the top on the pass. We want big plays, and we know we’ve got some really good guys on the outside. We know when we take shots, we’ve got a chance. That’s all we need, is a chance.”
Although Valley started chipping away at the deficit as the third quarter wound down — thanks to Charles Lopez-Burton’s 18-yard touchdown catch by halftime, plus Anthony Pugh’s 5-yard touchdown run late in the third, Belen preserved that momentum with key defensive plays.
“We couldn’t let (Valley) get anything after that,” safety Diego Avila said.
The play that ultimately sealed the day was a 68-yard pick-6 by Avila. He darted down along the left side and cut back inside before crossing the goal line.
“That was nice,” Avila said. “I don’t know if I should’ve cut it back; I had a bunch of lead blockers, but it worked out… With all those lead blockers, I have all the confidence in the world.”
Other notable defensive plays included linebacker Emmanuel Aragon’s interception after initially getting a piece of the ball at the point of attack, as well as a sack by linebacker Jesse Silva via a bad snap on fourth and long.
Little things paying off for Belen’s offense during win streak
McCraw said his squad’s spent time addressing things like timing blocks well, limiting drops approaching the red zone and quarterback Diego Espinoza making better option reads.
As a result, McCraw also said it’s enabled the offense to expand and diversify the playbook a bit more.
Belen hosts Del Norte at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8.
The Tigers stayed undefeated on Friday night, winning easily against Highland High School at Milne Stadium, 50 – 0. Paul Cieremans threw for three touchdowns while Malachi Roybal and Keven Munoz each rushed for a touchdown as well. The game ended on the mercy rule in the third quarter. Los Lunas, now 7-0, 1-0 on the year, are off this week before heading back to Albuquerque on Friday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. to play Valley.
The Jaguars won their second straight to improve to 5-2 on the year, beating Grants 47-6 in their district opener. This week, the Jaguars will host Albuquerque Academy on Friday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. in the final home game of the season.