Eagles play inspired in road loss to Goddard

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Since we know the Belen High football team can hang with a state finalist for three quarters, there seems to be as much optimism as ever for the Eagles being able to run with District 6-4A competition for an entire game. .

News-Bulletin file photo: Belen’s DYLAN GREENLEE, left, chases down a Del Norte ball carrier in a recent game. The Eagle defense held Goddard to 14 points through the first three quarters of Friday’s 27-7 road loss to the Rockets, and are set to play at 7 p.m. Friday at Los Alamos.

The Eagles trailed by a touchdown going into the final quarter of last Friday’s 27-7 loss to Goddard at the Wool Bowl in Roswell. Belen (3-1) is set to play at 7 p.m. Friday at Los Alamos in what will be its final pre-district game, with a bye week and then a showdown against Los Lunas in the 6-4A opener on Oct. 12.

Unfortunately, BHS quarterback Nick Kurtz suffered a head injury in the first half of the Goddard game, so his status for Friday and beyond wasn’t immediately known.

“I’m really pleased with our effort,” said BHS coach John Lerma. “Playing well against a quality team makes us better. Our team is young, and the kids are learning what it takes to perform well.”

Goddard, one of the top teams in any classification, had blasted defending Class 4A state champion Aztec, 63-0, and won on the home field of a tough Rio Rancho squad, 21-17. The Rockets (3-0) controlled the line of scrimmage throughout much of Friday’s game, said Lerma, but the Eagles did show improvements, especially on the defensive line.

The Rockets went up 7-0 on a 21-yard run early in the first quarter. The Eagles countered with a scoring drive of their own, capped by an 8-yard run by Kurtz.

The only other score of the first half was a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown by Goddard’s Cody French midway through the second quarter.

Lerma said Kurtz was hit in the back of the head in the second quarter, and didn’t return, though he was conscious and responsive. The senior suffered a severe concussion in the next-to-last game of the 2011 season, in which he was out cold and took weeks to regain his memory.

Sophomore Chris Peralta took over as quarterback for BHS for the rest of Friday’s game.

Goddard moved the ball well, but turned the ball over four times in the game. The 14-7 second-quarter score didn’t change until the Rockets’ Josh Quiroz got in on a 4-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

Quiroz caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Ornelas with 2:47 left to essentially decide the game.

Goddard out-rushed Belen, 465-205. Kurtz and Peralta combined to go 7-of-18 passing for 43 yards with one interception each.

Kurtz ended up being Belen’s leading rusher, with a 54-yard scamper accounting for most of his 60 yards on the ground. Wyatt Robinson’s 44 yards included a 37-yard run.

Ornelas led Goddard with 152 rushing yards, and two Rockets had more than 90. Belen did hold the Rockets to 1-for-8 on third-down conversions.

Lerma praised the play of the diminutive Peralta, considering the circumstances.

“Chris played well,” said the coach. “He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid.”

The coach also praised the improvements of the Eagle defense, especially the line.

“The tackling was much better,” he said. “We had more intensity, and we got off of blocks better.”

It was the first meeting between the teams since Goddard won 28-21 at BHS in the 2009 Class 4A championship game.

Lerma’s voice dipped when he talked about yet another road trip; the Los Alamos game will be the fourth out-of-town contest in five weeks for the Eagles. Belen has dominated the Hilltoppers (2-2) but have not been in a close game yet, having blown out Pojoaque Valley and Kirtland Central and having been shut out by St. Pius and Farmington High.

“They run a pistol formation, and primarily run,” said Lerma regarding Los Alamos. “But they will throw.”

Kevin Keller of the Roswell Daily Record contributed to this article.


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