The Valencia Bowl between Belen High School and Los Lunas High School will continue for at least one more season.
Los Lunas Schools Director of Athletics Wilson Holland confirmed he was unable to secure a team to replace Belen on the Tigers’ football schedule for the first game of the 2023 season.
It appears the rivalry, which dates back to 1953, survives at least one more year.
In recent years, enrollment at LLHS has grown considerably, while the numbers at BHS remained flat. The Tigers moved up to class 6A in football last season, while the Eagles continue to play in 5A.
Los Lunas has won seven straight games in the series by an average score of 40-5 with four shutouts.
Belen coach Kevin Peña expressed concern before the season about the disparity in size of the two football rosters.
“For me, it’s all about our kids and all about our injuries,” Peña said.
“Steve Contreras (BHS athletic coordinator) and I will always do what is best for kids and our programs,” said Holland in a statement to the News-Bulletin last week.
Because scheduling is done in a two-year block, LLHS and BHS are not contractually obligated to another game between the two after 2023.
“If Belen wants to drop (the game) after the block is over, that is what will happen. I understand,” Holland said.
Contreras said a decision about the future of the rivalry is “still a ways away,” and he would meet with the superintendent and others before coming to a resolution.
“It will be a tough decision to have to make. Many people in the community will want to keep the game,” Contreras said.
Previously, Contreras said he had found another school for the opening game if LLHS could also find a new opponent.
“That decision is not ours to make, so we will continue to play that game to the best of our ability,” said Tigers’ head coach Greg Henington, a former BHS coach, in a statement. “As long as that game is scheduled, we will honor the rivalry.”
While the official 2023 schedules for both schools have not been released, the Valencia Bowl is set to be played in late August at Los Lunas High School with the winner receiving the VCNB Chile Roaster trophy.
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.