BELEN — The Belen Eagles were unable to overcome an error-prone evening on Friday as they fell to the visiting Highland Hornets, 22-7 on homecoming.
“Obviously it’s disappointing,” Belen head coach Ty House said after the game. “I think there’s stuff that we can take from it and grow, as we’re trying to do every week. Installing a new system takes time, we’re growing every week.”
The first half was all Highland, as the Eagles struggled to move the ball, hurting themselves with a combination of penalties and dropped passes.
The Belen defense also struggled with penalties, as well as tackling, something House said had been a focus for the team in past weeks and would continue to be something they work on.
Hornets quarterback Nathan Lopez got the Hornets on the board with an option keeper up the middle and was able to get into the endzone untouched to take a 6-0 lead.
The Eagles appeared to have stopped Highland a few plays earlier after an incomplete attempt to the endzone on third down but Ben Hirschfield was whistled for pass interference, a call which upset the Eagles sideline, and gave the Hornets a fresh set of downs.
The deficit could have been worse, but on Highland’s next possession, Jonathan Romero was yards from the endzone after breaking loose when Hirschfield forced a fumble that the Eagles recovered.
The Hornets second touchdown came with just 2:25 left in the first half, as Lopez kept it again and broke a tackle at the one-yard line for the score to push the lead to 12-0.
Down 12-0, Belen had its chances to get points on the board, with two consecutive plays inside the five being called back for a hold and a block in the back, respectively, which pushed BHS back and set up a 2nd-and-30 and forced the team to settle for a field goal, which Luke Aragon missed from 34 yards as time expired in the first half.
Things didn’t improve much for the Eagles in the second half, as turnovers replaced penalties as the thing stalling the offense’s progress. BHS turned the ball over three times in the second half.
House said the unforced errors were the thing that slowed down the offense, more than anything Highland was doing defensively, as they were able to move the ball pretty well when they were able to avoid the errors.
Lopez scored again in the third quarter to capitalize on a Belen fumble, which came two plays after the Eagles defense, with its back against the wall, had come up with a big interception to keep the score within one possession.
Belen running back Anthony Roybal, who scored the Eagles only touchdown with 3:41 left in the third quarter on a run up the middle, was arguably the most effective offensive player for the Eagles before he was injured on the next possession on a play where he fumbled the ball.
He came out of the game and was taken back to the locker room on a cart, but returned for one play before leaving the game again. He seemed to be moving gingerly, but House didn’t know any specifics regarding the injury after the game.
The Eagles complete a three-game homestand next week as Piedra Vista (3-1) comes to town. The Panthers, who Los Lunas beat to open the season, are coming off a 42-14 win over Kirtland Central.
The Jaguars dropped to 0-3 on the year as Moriarty beat Valencia 40-12 on Friday. Landon Turnbow threw for 133 yards and one touchdown for the Jaguars, who were only able to put up 157 yards of total offense. The Pintos produced 357 yards of total offense, which was led by junior running back Pedro Sandoval, who had 155 yards on the ground. VHS is on the road again next week to take on Santa Teresa before beginning a stretch of three straight games at home.
In a rematch of last year’s state championship game, Roswell beat Los Lunas 56-33 on Friday at the Wool Bowl. The Tigers are now 2-2 on the season and will finally open up the home half of the schedule next week as they host Cibola for homecoming. Los Lunas won’t have to leave the county for the rest of the season, as the only road game remaining on their schedule is a trip to Valencia High.