The guard is changing in football — and fútbol

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The dog days of August have hit us here in Valencia County. Two-a-day football practices have come and gone, so the season is quickly upon us.

At this time last year, two teams were being talked about as having blue-trophy aspirations. Valencia football, with a roster full of senior playmakers, was thought to have a chance of going deep into the state playoffs. Belen boys soccer would be satisfied with nothing less than a state title.

There is no such talk this summer.

While it might be a down year for state title expectations, that doesn’t mean that sports in VC is in a lost place.

Quite the contrary. There are some teams in the county that, if overlooked, could be the bane of the Artesias and Goddards of the world.

This fall will probably be more of a changing of the guard or, in the minds of Los Lunas and Belen fans, a righting of the ship.

Coach Kelley Lee and a number of stars from the Jaguar team that lost to Aztec in the state semifinals, have departed for the Eastern New Mexico University football program in Portales.

Coach Brian Weems is now tasked with the resurrection of Sandia Matador soccer, and Ricardo Perez-Contreras will be scoring goals for Ranger College in Ranger, Texas.

Los Lunas football should benefit from the Jaguars having to reload this year. With quarterback Chris Wisneski and running back Jalen Chavez and a whole host of other Tiger talent returning, the Los Lunas fans are hopeful of going deep in this year’s playoffs.

Belen is looking for a resurgence after a year of injuries that left the once proud Eagles behind Grants in the District 6-4A standings. The 6-3 finish was not bad, but it is kind of like the New York Yankees finishing second in the AL East.

A good year for most teams, but not for those Belen Eagles.

Valencia will be retooling under first year head coach Kevin Jolley. We will see just how far the Jaguars have rebounded when Artesia comes calling on Sept. 14, just three games into the season.

In soccer, the power in the district seems to be leveling out and could come down to a battle between two teams that got left out of last year’s state playoffs.

Crafty veteran coach Eliseo Aguirre and newcomer Eric Gutierrez hope to avoid last year’s fate as Los Lunas and Valencia look to move above the spectre of what once was the Belen runaway soccer train.

In his 14th year as the Tiger mentor, Aguirre had former players talk to this year’s group of Los Lunas fútbolistas about the sorrow of missing the playoffs in their high school careers as they gathered for the annual alumni game.

Gutierrez is in his second season at Valencia and is almost taking it personally that the team missed the playoffs last year. He is working hard to make sure that academics are preached and that the chemistry remains stable for his Jaguar team.

Both Los Lunas and Valencia have a solid returning group and Belen has taken a step back to the pack with several key positions to fill.

But in both forms of football, the district dominated by VC teams in the past might have a little surprise coming from the west.

Miyamura came to Belen last year and impressed the New Mexico football world by winning 50-47. Although the Patriots had to forfeit that game due to an ineligible player, Miyamura showed that it is force with which to be reckoned.

The Patriots return QB Zach Shank, but will be looking for new receivers and to reload at tailback and fullback.

The Patriot soccer team is coming off a 5-11 season and is considered to be up-and-coming.

Although there is not much talk about state championships this season, I am no less excited about the prospects of county teams chances this year.

Let the games begin! I am tired of sitting at my desk and ready to get out on the sidelines to see some fútbol — and some football.


-- Email the author at mstearns@news-bulletin.com.