While sanctions imposed by the New Mexico Activities Association against the Belen football program will remain the same, the association has altered part of the punishment originally leveled against the Valley football team.
This adjustment allows the Vikings to play Friday, Sept. 22, against Los Lunas, while Belen must still forfeit Friday’s game at Deming. (Read story here.)
However, the first strike against both Belen and Valley under the NMAA’s “2 Strike” policy will stand, meaning a second “egregious” action by either school would lead to the entire season being shut down.
Last Friday’s game between Belen and Valley was ended early by officials when players from both teams were involved in a skirmish along the Valley sideline. Originally, the NMAA ruled both teams would forfeit their next games due to the number of players who took part.
This afternoon, an NMAA news release said after reviewing additional game film, it was determined that enough Viking players did not take part in the incident to allow Valley a sufficient number of players to field a competitive team against Los Lunas.
“Following a review of additional film provided by Valley High School after the initial ruling, the New Mexico Activities Association has modified its decision regarding the incident that took place on Sept. 8, 2023,” the release reads.
“Although multiple player ejections will stand, the Valley football team will be able to move forward with its game versus Los Lunas (High School) with the remaining players who were identified as not involved in the incident. The strike on the Valley football team for egregious behavior will remain.
“Belen High School must still forfeit its next game due to the amount of player ejections that resulted from the incident. The strike on the Belen football team for egregious behavior will also remain. This will be the only comment the NMAA will make on this matter.”
According to Lawrence Sanchez, Belen Consolidated Schools superintendent, the NMAA determined BHS would not have a sufficient number of players eligible to suit up this week against Deming because only eight to 10 Eagles did not cross the field to get involved.
Sanchez said he was told by Sally Marquez, NMAA executive director, that “there simply weren’t enough Belen kids who didn’t leave the sidelines for you guys to be able to play the (next) game.”
By rule, all players who leave the bench area are subject to an immediate ejection and a one-game suspension.
Sanchez said Marquez told him Valley will have as many as a dozen players suspended for the next game, and several will face a longer suspension because of their actions in the scuffle with Belen.
Sanchez said Thursday afternoon the district is exploring legal action following the New Mexico Activities Association decision.
While not being specific about what actions are being considered and why, Sanchez said, “Based on the information that came out this morning from the NMAA regarding the decision to allow Valley to play its next football game against Los Lunas, the Belen School Board, superintendent and the athletic director are currently exploring with the district lawyer to see what legal avenues are available to them.
“It hasn’t been decided yet,” Sanchez said, “but we are talking to our lawyer to see if any legal avenues are available to us. We’ve asked our lawyer for advice on what our legal options are.”
Sanchez said they expect to make a decision sometime Friday morning.
When contacted, Belen head football coach Kevin Peña did not want to comment until he learned more about the ruling.
With the Valley-Los Lunas contest back on the schedule, Tigers coach Greg Henington said, “That’s good for our seniors. They didn’t deserve to (play one less) game.”
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.