Gino Gutierrez| News-Bulletin photo The Belen Eagle football team makes a touchdown at Friday night’s game against the Deming Wildcats. The Eagles will once again meet the LLHS Tigers this weekend.

BHS to take on LLHS Tigers Saturday in second round; VHS to play against Bloomfield

The Belen Eagles survived their first-round playoff matchup against the Deming Wildcats in a wild back and forth affair on Friday night in Belen.

The matchup of the 10th seeded Wildcats and 8th seed Eagles went down to the wire and proved to be an instant classic.

The visiting Wildcats had the first possession of the game and used their running game as a means to move the ball down the field. Gaining yardage in chucks, five-to-six yards at a time.

Deming’s opening drive stalled in the red zone and the Wildcats were faced with a decision to make on fourth down. Send out the kicking team and attempt to secure the first points of the game? Or go for it on fourth down to keep the drive alive?

The Wildcats decided to run the ball on fourth down, but were stood up by the Belen defense, who took over on downs near their own endzone.

The Eagles turned to their ground game to get the ball moving, and much of the run game would go through Diego Avila, the sophomore running back for Belen.

Avila scored the first touchdown of the evening for Belen, on a tightrope run down the sideline that was sprung by a perfectly-timed pitch play.

Belen would miss the ensuing extra point, but the Eagles had scored the all important first points of the game. Deming would not fare much better on their second drive of the game, stalling out near midfield and punting the ball back to Belen. The Eagles took the ball and found the end zone again on their one and only pass of the evening.

The run-heavy offense took to the air as senior quarterback Diego Espinoza found fellow senior Emmanuel Aragon on a 61-yard passing touchdown. A failed two-point conversion by Belen would make it 12-0 midway through the second quarter.

Deming would manage to find the endzone before halftime however, as the teams entered the locker rooms with Belen leading 12-7.

Coming out of half time, the Eagles looked determined to build off of their lead, and it wouldn’t take them long to do so. For the second time in the game, running back Diego Avila left the Wildcats behind as he flew down the sideline for his second touchdown of the game on the first play of the second half.

Now trailing 18-7 after the quick touchdown, the Wildcats would not be deterred, as they took their first possession of the second half down the field and scored a touchdown of their own to cut the Belen lead, 18-13.

Whether it was nerves on the part of Belen or the momentum being built up by the Wildcats, the next drive for the Eagles never got off the ground. Multiple procedural penalties by Belen killed the drive.

Backed nearly onto their own endzone, Belen punted the ball away.

Deming continued to press the Eagles, who now found themselves on their heels for the first time in the game.

A mixture of running plays kept Belen off kilter and allowed Deming to reestablish their game. Powered by the resurgence in their ground game, the Wildcats eventually found the end zone to take their first lead of the game, 21-18.

Suddenly, the Belen Eagles and their fans faced their first deficit of the game. There was an eerie silence that fell over the field as the Eagles received the following kick off.

That silence soon gave way to frustration as the Eagles failed to gain a first down on their second consecutive drive. Another Belen drive was killed by multiple pre-snap penalties.

The Eagles would punt the ball away to the Wildcats, now riding high on momentum after two straight touchdown drives.

Just when the Wildcats seemed to be in complete control of the game, the punt went right over the Deming player’s head and was recovered by Belen inside the Wildcats’ 30-yard line.

This sudden change of fortune gave the Eagles new life. Belen turned to a familiar face to get back into the game — Diego Avila. The Belen running back made his third and final touchdown of the game a memorable one.

As he took the hand off, Avila bounced off of not one, not two, but three would-be Deming tacklers as he lunged for the goal line to give Belen the lead once again.

The Belen sideline exploded as coaches and players jumped for joy as Avlia celebrated with his teammates in the endzone. A converted two-point conversion would give the Eagles a 25-21 lead.

The feeling of joy would be fleeting however, as Deming possessed the ball late with a chance to score a late go-ahead touchdown. The Eagles defense needed to make one final stand to secure the win and a date with the undefeated Los Lunas Tigers.

The Wildcats reached midfield with less than two minutes to go in the game. The stop came in the form of a late interception by Belen to secure their 25-21 victory.

This was the first postseason win for head coach Andrew McCraw, and the coach and his team are now scheduled for a rematch of the Valencia Bowl, played earlier this season. McCraw and the Eagles fell to the Tigers, 38-6

When talking about the rematch of the two teams after the win, McCraw said the team will have a better idea of what to expect the second time around.

Taylor Hood| News-Bulletin photo The Valencia High School Jaguars beat the Taos Tigers in the first round of the District 4A state tournament.

“We have a good idea of what they do offensively and defensively,” McCraw said. “Los Lunas is really good; there’s a reason they’re undefeated and the two seed.”

McCraw also touched on his team’s will and drive to win, and counted on their passion to beat Los Lunas.

“A lot of our kids grow up playing pee-wee and they’ve played them a lot and they want to win,” McCraw said. “It’s a good rivalry game, it’s a chance to get another shot at those guys.”

Belen and Los Lunas will face off in the second round of the state playoffs at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 13, at Los Lunas football field.

The Valencia Jaguars beat the Taos Tigers Friday night with a score of 53-23 in the first round of the 4A state tournament. They will face off against the Bloomfield Bobcats at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 12, in Bloomfield.

Tickets are available for both games online at

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