Eagle boys struggled, but still have a player on 6-4A first team

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After two state-title match appearances, the Belen High boys soccer team lost the leading single-season scorer in New Mexico soccer history, several seniors, players transferring and one charismatic head coach.

The cupboard was fairly bare.

Danny Krow, who had coached junior varsity soccer at Belen, was named the coach with only freshman Chris Lovato and a handful of other varsity returners.

News-Bulletin file photo: Freshman, Chris Lovato, right, led the Belen High boys soccer team with 25 goals this season. He was named first-team All-District 6-4A.

Lovato, a first-team All-District 6-4A player this season, led the Eagles in scoring with 25 goals, assists (11) and even had a save in a short stint in goal. All of that playing mostly as a defender for the Eagles.

He was the main postseason honoree for the Eagles, who went 5-15 overall and 4-6 in 6-4A.

“Chris is only a ninth-grader, but he plays like a senior,” said Krow. “My wish for him is that he play healthy for the next 20 years. We will see greatness from him.”

Krow utilized Lovato at nearly every spot on the field.

“He played everywhere,” the Eagle coach said. “He even played goalie. On the all-district first team, he is the only ninth-grader. There is a sophomore and a junior, and all of the rest are seniors.”

Lovato was an honorable-mention all-state player last year as an eighth-grader, and Krow hopes he moves up on that list. The Class 4A All-State team had not been announced as of News-Bulletin press time.

“He is going to be a contributing force for the next three years,” said Krow of Lovato.

“When you have a kid that talented, you have to let him play where he is going to play. I didn’t want for him to be on defense exclusively, because then we could not put pressure on their defense.”

Belen had several middle-school athletes step up in the later portion of the season. Belen lost five players to academics in the middle of the year, but won four of the five games after the roster had to be re-worked.

“For the eighth-graders, it is a big step from going to American Youth Soccer Organization to playing against seniors,” said Krow, noting that gives a lot of experience returning next season.

It was a learning experience for the first-year head coach.

“I will check grades once a week,” said Krow. “I will start that at the last six weeks of this year. Elmer (Flores) and Alejandro (Chaves) will be seniors next year. Hopefully, they will not miss their senior year of soccer.”

Defender Antonio Baca was named to the second-team all-district.

“He was on the ground constantly, throwing his body in front of shots,” said Krow of Baca’s dedicated style of play. “I mean, talk about a player that bruised up every game, that was Antonio. He never complained once. I put him back as a stopper in a position that he never played before. He caught on very fast and helped us out a lot.”

The Eagles will miss Baca next season as well as two other seniors.

“At the beginning of the year, Baca played the whole season as a starter,” said Krow. “Chance Canon and Kevin Worley didn’t start, but towards the end, they improved a bunch and started earning some starting positions.”

Manuel Parra and Jessie Monge made all-district honorable mention.

“He was on JV for me. We tried him up as a forward and he actually did pretty well,” said Krow of Parra.

“Jessie helped put our offense in track when Chris came up to offense. He was the experience to help Chris out.”

Krow appreciated his first season, in spite of a 5-15 record. His kids were in the playoff hunt until the last game. They finished 4-6 in district.

“It is worth it for being with the kids,” Krow said. “It is not about the money. I played for Belen, so it would be nice to bring home the first state championship for Belen.”

Krow noted the support of the athletic administration and his family as sources of strength through the season. He said he would like to return as coach next season.

He credits his wife, Millie, with keeping him going through the year.

“I really need to thank my family, because it took away a lot from them,” he said. “They sacrificed, so that I could coach. It was Millie that came to me and said, ‘Why don’t you apply for that position?’ She told me that I really needed to do it.”


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