Eagle football beats mistake-prone Jags

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As the 2012 regular season comes to a close, one Valencia County football team seems to be peaking at the right time, while another probably needs its best effort in order to get into the playoffs.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia’s Joe Heneghan, left, tries to get away from Joseph Lash of Belen in Friday’s game. Both teams finish the regular season with 7 p.m. games Friday, with Belen hosting Grants and Valencia visiting Los Lunas High.

Belen’s 48-7 win at Valencia last Friday made BHS 7-2 overall and 3-1 in District 6-4A. The Eagles are heavily favored to beat Grants this Friday, while Valencia (3-6, 3-1) has an uphill battle as it travels across the river to play at local rival Los Lunas High.

Both games are set for 7 p.m.

If Valencia loses and Belen wins, VHS probably won’t be picked as an at-large team for the state playoffs, as they would be District 6-4A’s third place team. For the Jaguars to have a chance at beating Los Lunas for what would be the second straight year, the Jags will likely need a more consistent effort than it showed against Belen.

BHS, on the other hand, probably needs to simply built on what it’s done the past three weeks. The Eagles rushed for 328 yards in Friday’s game, running through arm tackles and taking advantage of huge holes opened up by the improving offensive line.

The Eagle defense is improving as well, and Belen mostly dominated the line of scrimmage Friday. After Valencia quarterback Anthony Gonzales broke free and scored on a 25-yard first-quarter run, Belen took away most of what the Jags like to do, and restricted the hosts to 136 yards of total offense on senior night.

Valencia had some ill-timed penalties and fumbled five times, losing two, and was intercepted once.

Xavier Armijo had his second big week in a row for Belen. The senior tailback ran for 198 yards on only 13 carries and scored on scampers of 9, 50 and 51 yards, all in the first half. His scores, along with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Chris Peralta to Wyatt Robinson, helped the Eagles forge a 28-7 lead.

Peralta added 48 rushing yards and a 5-yard scoring run, and he was 3-for-3 through the air for 46 yards.

“Chris is doing a fine job of running our offense, especially for a sophomore,” said BHS coach John Lerma. “He looks more at ease, and is reading coverages better and becoming a complete quarterback. It also helps (him) that the offensive line is getting better as a unit with each game. His punting is getting better, too.”

Stetson Schutte had Belen’s only interception. Trenton Barba scored on a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter to push the game into the mercy-rule, running clock stage, and Barba and sophomore Manuel Romero had some quality runs as the Eagles ran out the clock.

Kaitlyn D’Arcangeli made six point-after kicks. The Belen High girls soccer star would have had a seventh opportunity, but the ball got away from Peralta on one third-quarter try, and D’Arcangeli ducked and cringed as players raced for the ball.

“Fortunately, she didn’t get hit,” said Lerma of D’Arcangeli, who has made at least a few extra-points in each of the past three games. “Our time to work with her in practice is limited.”

In addition to D’Arcangeli, who has singlehandedly resolved an Eagle weakness in extra-point kicking, Lerma praised two other special-teams performers. C.J. Newey, who set up a scoring drive Friday with a strong third-quarter return, and Andrew Castillo have both been explosive return men.

The Eagles’ mounting injury list increased Friday when defensive end Gilbert Espinoza was helped off the field. He is doubtful for Friday, making the Eagles thin at a position where Felix Ulibarri has already been lost for the season. Receivers Zach Martin and Tristen Baca are unlikely to return from their injuries, Lerma said.

The coach said Grants, which won 46-20 at Gallup on Friday, packs in its offense for tight formations and will run or pass that way, and its defense its aggressive.

Valencia is still looking for a way to cut down on mistakes and big plays. The Jaguars looked slow to react on defense Friday, and missed many tackles.

On offense, the Jags’ five fumbles, lack of a multi-dimensional quarterback and inability to convert on third down led to their most lopsided loss of the season. Tailback Josh Burbank had only 25 yards on nine carries.

Starting quarterback Anthony Gonzales went 0-for-4 passing with an interception, though he led his team in rushing yards with 47. He was benched in the second half in favor of Joe Heneghan, who was 3-of-4 passing for 27 yards.

Security-staffed parking will be available for Friday’s game at the Los Lunas High soccer fields and in front of the school.


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