Jaguars win third straight; will host Belen on Friday

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After starting the season 0-5, there did not seem to be much to cheer about in the Jaguar football camp.

But in just three short weeks, Valencia is tied with undefeated Los Lunas atop the District 6-4A standings with a 3-0 mark.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia’s Josh Burbank, right, looks for running room amid Grants tacklers as teammate Porfie Baca (No. 75) blocks. The Jaguars won at Grants, 21-7, and will host the Belen Eagles at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Jaguars (3-5 overall) went into Grants (4-4, 1-2 in District 6-4A) on Friday night and scored on a kickoff return, a 4th-and-12 play, and a seven-yard pitch that looked as if it might be stopped in the backfield.

But the defense held on a cold night, and the Jaguars came out with their third straight win, 21-7.

At 3-5, Valencia finishes with two tough district games against county rivals Belen (6-2, 2-1) and Los Lunas (8-0, 3-0).

Valencia is set to host Belen in a 7 p.m. Friday game. Should Valencia beat Belen or Los Lunas, they would move ahead of that team in the standings. If the Jags win both games, they would go into the playoffs as the automatic berth as district champs.

Coach Kevin Jolley explained the need to win one of the last two games.

“I think if they take the top two teams in our district, then we have to beat one of them,” said Jolley. “If we were lucky enough to pull one off against Belen then that would put us in a good spot.”

“Belen’s record would get them in the playoffs,” he said with certainty.

Friday started off rough for the Jags against Grants. The Pirates fumbled the ball midway through the first quarter on the Valencia one-yard line, but on the next play, Grants’ Michael Marez stripped the ball away from a Jag ballcarrier and fell on it for the game’s first touchdown.

Down 7-0, the deficit would only exist for a few seconds. Nate Chavez took the kickoff at his own seven-yard line, shook off a tackler and headed for the left sideline.

Outracing the coverage, Chavez shook off another tackler at about the 30-yard line, and scored with a burst of speed. Caleb Crum kicked the extra point, and it was 7-7.

Jag quarterback Anthony Gonzalez only had 41 yards on 11 carries, but his most impressive run of the night came with just 31 seconds left in the first quarter.

Facing a 4th-and-12 at the Pirates’ 36, Gonzalez was trapped in the backfield while attempting to pass. He struck away a tackle attempt with one hand, tucked the ball with the other and ran 36 yards for the score.

Crum displayed his usual accuracy and the Jags led 14-7.

Tailback Josh Burbank scored the final points of the game on a pitch from the seven-yard line. He moved left and was met in the backfield by two Pirate defenders at the 12-yard line.

The talented sophomore broke free from both tacklers and finished the run to paydirt, and Crum’s PAT made it 21-7 with 5:22 left in the first half.

“We had so much trouble moving the ball,” said Jolley, noting that the Jags only had 155 yards of offense in the win. “They are very aggressive, physical team. We knew with the pressure they putting on us, we had to move the ball a little bit.”

Grants tried to recover. With 35 seconds left in the first half, Grants quarterback Cassius Corley was being chased in the backfield at the Valencia 7-yard line. He had three receivers open without a Jag within 10 yards, and he overthrew Marez, who could have waltzed in from the 2.

“The fight throughout the game was huge,” said a delighted Jolley after the game. “Obviously, being able to go 3-0 in the district was very big for us. We have quite a bit of things we need to work on. I was really happy with the way the defense played, not letting the Grants offense in to the end zone.”

Burbank led the rushing effort with 46 yards on nine carries. Gonzales added 40 yards passing on 2-of-6 with no interceptions. Both teams lost two fumbles.


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