After a difficult September, Valencia County high school football teams are looking forward to district play.
Valencia High School
It was like watching a bad movie again and again — with a lousy ending.
For the third time in four games, the Valencia Jaguars lost in the final minute, falling to Gadsden, 20-13, Friday in the VHS homecoming contest.
With Valencia quarterback Rey Sanchez out with an injury, running back Matthew Chavez and receiver Adriano Ortez rotated at the position. The Jaguars moved the ball well in the first half, mostly on the ground.
A half back pass on the first play of the game set up a short touchdown run by Chavez to make it 7-0.
Standout Gadsden quarterback Tomas Hernandez put the Panthers on the board later with a 25-yard scamper on fourth down. The extra point was no good, and Valencia led 7-6.
Following a successful fourth-down try, the Jaguars’ Jericho Pino scored on a 12-yard run in the second quarter. The extra point try was unsuccessful and Valencia had a 13-6 advantage at halftime.
“Inexperience led to a couple of penalties,” VHS coach Wes Shank said of the change at quarterback.
Illegal shifts and delay of game penalties were costly, but Shank said, “I thought the quarterback position played pretty well.”
The defenses took over in the second half, with neither team scoring in the third quarter. The Jaguars had a great opportunity to start the fourth, but an interception inside the 20-yard line ended the drive.
The scrambling ability of the Panthers’ Herrera put pressure on the VHS defense. He found an open receiver in the end zone with five minutes left. The extra point was missed and Gadsden trailed 13-12.
After a VHS three-and-out, a low snap led to a 13-yard punt that gave the Panthers outstanding field position. A short time later Ryan Hernandez barreled in and the two-point conversation put Gadsden up 20-13 with 39 seconds left.
A 43-yard kickoff return by Pino gave the Jags hope, but the clock ran out. Gadsden, now 2-5, spoiled homecoming with the 20-13 victory.
Quarterback Matthew Chavez was emotional after the game.
“It hurts, it really does,” Chavez said. “I just did what I could,” filling in at quarterback.
Shank believes the Jaguars are close to being a good team.
“If we focus mentally, we might close these games out,” he said. “We squandered opportunities.”
VHS is now 1-5 and plays on the road Thursday against Rio Grande in the last non-district game.
Los Lunas High School
Los Lunas ended a three-game losing streak, opening district play with a convincing 44-21 victory Friday at Santa Fe Capital.
Capital scored first but the Tigers followed with 27 first quarter points and led 37-7 at the break.
“It was nice to see,” said LLHS head coach Greg Henington. “We were due for an explosion offensively.”
Quarterback Paul Cieremans may have had his best game of the season. Cieremans threw for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Fabian Trujillo.
The Tigers improve to 3-4 and 1-0 in district with the 44-21 victory.
“Our communication was much better up front offensively,” Henington said.
After a “gauntlet” facing tough teams, “The kids were hungry as could be. They earned it — I’m proud of them.”
Next up is a Friday home game against district rival Albuquerque High.
Belen High School
The Belen Eagles lost at home Friday to the visiting Goddard Rockets 51-14.
Despite the final score, head coach Kevin Peña saw some improvement.
“Offensively we moved the ball better,” Peña said. “The score doesn’t show how well we played. The kids played hard, they didn’t give up.”
Peña praised the running game, which totaled almost 250 yards. Damian Avila did much of the damage with 157 yards and a touchdown.
“He had a great game,” Peña said.
Derian Rodriguez scored the Eagles’ other touchdown.
Belen struggled through the air and twice failed to score inside the 10 yard line.
The Eagles are 1-6, losing five straight games.
Belen is off this week before opening district play at Highland.
“It is all about district,” Peña said.
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.