The Belen Eagles gave their head coach an early birthday present on Friday night with a thrilling 20-14 overtime win over the visiting Piedra Vista Panthers.
Head coach Andrew McCraw, who will celebrate his birthday on Saturday, Sept. 18, and the Eagles improved to 2-2 on the season with the win and have now won two straight.
The victory was McCraw’s first at home leading the program.
“It was a good one, they battled, they battled,” McCraw said of his team.
“We had a little let down in the second half but we came back and battled and did a great job in overtime. We talked about that before I told them ‘hey, go out there and make plays; and they did that.”
Piedra Vista started the scoring in the first quarter, taking a 7-0 lead on a touchdown run courtesy of No. 22 Lukas Chavez.
The Eagles responded early in the second, as quarterback Diego Espinoza kept for the score from one yard out. After converting on the two-point conversion, Belen took an 8-7 lead which would carry the Eagles into halftime.
Both teams opened the second half sluggish, as neither was able to generate much of anything offensively.
In the final moments of the third, Diego Avila gave the Eagles a massive boost, returning a short punt roughly 45 yards for the touchdown to put the Eagles up 14-7 heading into the fourth after the two-point conversion attempt failed.
It didn’t take long for Piedra Vista to answer back, as the Panthers’ Jacob Ramsted scored with about 10 minutes left in the first half to tie the game at 14.
While each team had chances, including a short field goal for PVHS’ placekicker as time expired, no one was able to strike a decisive blow and the game went to overtime tied at 14.
The visiting Panthers won the toss and got the ball first and had an opportunity to set the tone.
However, the Belen defense wouldn’t give them the chance.
The Eagles forced and recovered a fumble on second down, giving the ball to the offense with a chance to win the game.
On the Eagles first offensive play of overtime,
Espinoza connected with wide receiver Elijah Romero, who went up and brought down the pass over his defender.
After being initially ruled incomplete, the officials discussed and ruled that Romero had controlled the ball all the way to the ground, giving Belen the touchdown and the 20-14 win.
Next week, the Eagles are back on the road and will head north to take on the Capital Jaguars.
The Tigers scored an emphatic 29-16 win over the Cibola Cougars on homecoming on Friday night.
With the win, Los Lunas stayed undefeated and improved to 5-0. The Tigers will host the Goddard Rockets on Friday night at 7 p.m.
The Jaguars were in action on Thursday, making the trip to Santa Teresa. The host Warriors dispatched Valencia 42-22.
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Jaguars, who will return home next week to host Bloomfield on Friday night at 7 p.m.