Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photos
The Jaguars and Tigers scramble for the ball during Valencia’s 6-1 victory in boys soccer.

Los Lunas

Neither the Los Lunas defense nor a lightning delay could slow the Valencia boys soccer team, which scored five first-half goals on the way to a 6-1 road victory over the Tigers.

Four minutes into the game, play was stopped briefly because of lightning in the area. Five minutes after action resumed, the Jaguars struck.

Kyle Mankins scored the first of his two goals when he was left wide open in front of the net after the LLHS goalkeeper couldn’t reach a windblown pass.

In the 23rd minute, an LLHS defender was called for a handball in the box, leading to a penalty kick by Victor Ramirez to double the Valencia lead.

VHS added two more goals before Los Lunas got on the board. A strong header by Quinton Solano cut the lead to 4-1 in the 38th minute.

However, any momentum Los Lunas built was quickly dashed when Valencia scored right before the first-half whistle.

The defenses tightened up in the final 40 minutes, with Valencia adding a lone goal to close out a season opening 6-1 victory.

Joey Palacios, Joel Monarrez and Bryan Foster rounded out the scoring for Valencia.

During the lightning delay, both head coaches expressed optimism about the season ahead.

“We try to aim high,” said longtime Valencia coach Eric Gutierrez. “That tournament (state playoffs) is something we would love to be a part of.”

VHS finished 6-13 last season, but nine seniors give the Jaguars hope for a big turnaround. That depth allowed Gutierrez to tinker with his lineup.

“We’re actually looking at a different type of lineup with different people playing different positions,” he said. “It looks like we are definitely coming along.”

LLHS coach Eric Chavez is confident the Tigers defense will become a strength for the team, which posted an 8-8-2 mark in 2022.

“We have a good attacking center midfielder in Christian Ramirez,” Chavez said about the offense. “He’s about 6-2. We’re looking at him to lead the scoring this year.”

Ramirez is one of nine seniors for the Tigers.

“We feel pretty good,” about the season, Chavez said during the lightning delay. “We have a lot more experience.”


Belen boys soccer

The Belen Eagles prepare for a difficult start to the soccer season, with four straight away games.

The Belen Eagles open the season with four games on the road, starting with Hatch Valley on Tuesday. It’s not an ideal situation for a squad that brings little experience onto the pitch, with just two seniors and a handful of juniors.

“We have a very young team, but they’re excited to start working,” said BHS head coach Edgar Lopez, who will rely on freshmen, sophomores and even eighth-graders to round out the squad.

Lopez says the Eagles have several stalwarts, including juniors Julian Jurado and Jaret Fernandez.

“They are very skilled players who bring a lot to the team,” he said. “We’re just going to build around them and see what we can do with that.”

Fernandez cites “good ball control” as a reason the Eagles can improve on last seasons’ 5-13 record, 2-6 in district 5 4A.

“I think we improved a lot from last year and are ready to come back with a good effort.”

Sophomore Landon Boggs is appreciative of the leadership of Jurado and Fernandez, as well as senior Emilio Jurado.

“They’ve been playing for a long time,” Boggs explained. “They are definitely going to help the team win games.”

Despite the lack of experience and probably not enough players to field a JV team, Lopez is upbeat.

“The expectations are high for the boys. I always have academics first,” the coach said. “It translates into the field, so that’s my priority.

“The kids really love the sport and community support would be appreciated.”

Belen’s first home game is Sept. 8 against Miyamura.

Girls soccer

Valencia lost at Alamogordo 4-1 to open the season. On Tuesday, Belen hosts Hatch Valley, while Los Lunas plays Friday at Aztec.  Look for previews of each team in next week’s Valencia County News-Bulletin.

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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.