Jaguar boys get pair of wins; will face Eagles, then Tigers

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As it tries to return to the Class 4A playoffs, the Valencia Jaguars could be starting to play their best soccer of the season.

Or, at least well enough to earn some victories.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia High senior Joel Molina leaps over Bernalillo goalkeeper Carlos Viera in Thursday’s match. The Jaguars won twice this week and are set to close the regular season with matches at 11 a.m. Saturday and at home at 4 p.m Tuesday against Los Lunas.

Coming off last weekend’s frustrating home loss to Miyamura, the Jaguars kept their chances alive of a top-three finish in District 6-4A with two hard-earned home wins this week. Valencia posted a 2-1 district victory over Grants on Tuesday, and started strong in a 4-1 non-district defeat of Bernalillo on Thursday.

This week’s wins made the Jaguars 9-7 overall. They are 4-4 in District 6-4A and tied with Belen for third place.

Saturday, the Jaguars visit the Belen Eagles for an 11 a.m. match. They close the regular season with a 4 p.m. home contest against Los Lunas High.

“The guys felt real bad after last weekend’s loss,” said Jaguar coach Erik Gutierrez, referring to a 2-1 home overtime defeat to Miyamura. “We had a real serious talk, and even got together on Sunday. Against Grants, we really picked it up. I think we are coming together as a team.”

The Grants match was a physical affair, with plenty of offensive misfires by both teams. Joel Molina staked the Jaguars to a 2-0 lead with goals in the 32nd and 57th minutes.

Grants’ lone goal came in the 78th minute when a shot by the Pirates’ Kameron Elkins hit the crossbar. The ball then took an unlucky bounce off of the Jags’ goalkeeper, Jose Gonzalez.

“The game was real slow,” said Gutierrez. “There wasn’t a lot of attacking. There was just kind of waiting to see what the other team did.”

A couple of players were banged up in the intense district match. The Pirates fell to 7-8 overall, 3-5 in 6-4A with the loss.

Thursday, it looked like the Jags might be able to cruise to an easy win, as they scored three times in the first 25 minutes.

Edgar Rivas, a recent call-up from the junior varsity, put in a rebound only five minutes into the match. David Acosta took a through-pass from Josh Otero and scored in the 16th minute, and senior Diego Ramirez put in a penalty kick in the 25th minute.

However, Bernalillo (1-12) was eventually able to get the ball to its playmakers more often. Jacob Kloeppel received a throw-in in the 36th minute and fed across to Ruben Chavira, who beat Gonzalez near the far post.

Both teams struggled to click offensively in the physical second half, though both goalkeepers, Gonzalez and the Spartans’ Carlos Viera, made some sparkling saves to keep the score even.

Valencia’s Alan Ramirez put in a goal off an assist from Diego Ramirez with only two minutes left to put the match away.

Ramirez is playing with two pins in his right leg, which was broken in a match in Gallup last year. The senior midfielder and top creator for the Jaguar offense is often playing with severe shin pain, Gutierrez said.

“There are times when he can’t do anything away from the ball,” said Gutierrez. “So we take him out, rest him, and keep him stretched out.”

The Jags needed a late goal by Alan Ramirez to beat Belen 3-2 at VHS on Oct. 2, in a match the Jags played with 10 men for nearly 50 minutes due to a red card. Los Lunas, which the Jaguars led 2-0 at LLHS on Oct. 6, beat Valencia by scoring three goals in the final 22 minutes.

After Tuesday’s regular season finale, the Jags will await the results of a New Mexico Activities Association staff playoff seeding meeting, set for Sunday, Oct. 28. Valencia is hoping to make the third state tourney appearance in its five seasons of existence.


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