Belen football players honored for roles in team’s 9-3 season

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Most fans who follow Class 4A New Mexico football figured the Belen High team would improve this season. Not all observers thought the Eagles would reach the state semifinals for the fourth time in five years.

News-Bulletin file photo: Belen’s Xavier Armijo earned multiple awards for his performance this season, as he rushed for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was one of many Eagles to earn individual awards for their parts in the Eagles’ 9-3 season and fourth semifinal appearance in five years.

The Eagles soared to a 9-3 record in 2012-13, with a somewhat veteran team made younger by injuries, and only lost to the two teams who played for the Class 4A championship — Los Lunas and Goddard. Belen lost once to each of those teams in the regular season and dropped a 35-7 decision at Goddard in the 4A semifinals.

Many of the players who contributed to the Eagles’ season were recently honored with All-District 6-4A, State Farm All-Metro and Class 4A All-State awards.

However, no Eagles were on the Class 4A/5A senior all-star South football roster.

“I’m so proud of how hard our kids and coaches worked,” said BHS coach John Lerma. “We beat almost everyone in front of us, and the two teams that got us have among the two best defenses in the state.”

Belen’s offense averaged more than 30 points per game, chewed up 3,176 yards and accounted for 50 touchdowns. The defense shut down most opponents, intercepted 15 passes and recovered 17 fumbles.

One of the Eagle seniors who earned the most honors was Xavier Armijo. The hard-running tailback rushed for 1,363 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.

He was named to the Class 4A All-State second team, the All-Metro Class 3A/4A first team and the District 6-4A first team.

“Xavy was a big part of our team, and had a great senior year,” said Lerma.

Wyatt Robinson was honored for his play on both sides of the ball. He was the team’s leading receiver as a fullback, catching 18 passes for 252 yards, and was the team’s second-leading rusher with 644 yards. He scored 18 touchdowns.

He was also a hard-hitting safety on defense.

“Wyatt has great leadership skills,” said Lerma of Robinson, who is also a two-time state champion wrestler. “He’s such a competitor, and has great work habits.”

Robinson was named honorable mention at fullback and to the second team for safety at both the All-State and the All-Metro level, and made the 6-4A first team at both positions.

Bobby Montaño, in his first full year of varsity, earned second-team All-State and All-Metro and first team All-6-4A at guard.

“Bobby played some last year, but really came through for us this year,” said Lerma. “He has a great attitude.”

Christian Aragon, at right tackle, made the first team at both All-Metro and all-district.

“He was a little young in 2011, but this year, he kept getting better and better,” said the coach. “He was probably the best offensive lineman we had, and he was the leader there.”

Nick Aragon, only a sophomore, made the 6-4A second team as a wide receiver who Lerma said “improved as the year went along.”

Another sophomore, Andres Benavidez, had to deal not only with being one of the youngest starting centers in 4A, but also a mid-season quarterback change after a concussion to senior Nick Kurtz. He made the 6-4A second team.

“He had to handle a lot, and he played well,” said the coach.

Devin Vigil was named to the district’s second team as a guard. The senior had no prior offensive line experience, but he still made the 6-4A second team.

Isaac Valdez, a junior, also made the second team as a tight end.

“The whole O-line kept improving,” said Lerma. “Coach (Lawrence) Sanchez always does a super job with those guys.”

Chris Peralta took over for Kurtz as the Eagle quarterback in the middle of the first Goddard game. He ran for 527 and scored seven rushing touchdowns, and threw for four scores.

The sophomore persevered through some rough games and earned honorable mention in District 6-4A. He was also the district’s second-team punter.

“It’s unfortunate that Chris had to jump in there when he did,” said Lerma. “But he did an excellent job of running the offense. His quickness makes him a threat.”

There were about as many Eagle all-stars on defense as there were on offense. Jonathan Madrid emerged to get onto the All-Metro second team and the 6-4A first team as a defensive lineman.

“Jonathan is a big reason our defense improved,” said Lerma. “He reminds me of (former all-state BHS defensive lineman) David Quail: scrappy and aggressive. He has a knack for the football.”

Trenton Barba made the All-State and All-Metro second teams and the 6-4A first team as a linebacker. The hard-hitting Barba had 12 tackles for loss, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and six forced fumbles.

Andrew Castillo had three interceptions from his cornerback spot, where he earned second-team All-Metro and first-team all-district status. The junior was also a threat as a kick returner.

“Andrew’s kickoff return for a touchdown at Moriarty is what sparked us,” said Lerma, referring to when the Eagles erased a 27-0 deficit to win 34-33 in overtime. “Andrew might be the fastest guy on the team. Teams couldn’t throw effectively against him.”

Cody Thompson made the 6-4A second team as a defensive tackle.

“He’s another guy that reminds me of Quail,” said Lerma. “He plays with a lot of heart, and he’s our quickest defensive lineman. He was great on kickoff coverage, too.”

Dylan Greenlee is a three-year varsity contributor who was honorable mention at the All-Metro level and second-team all-district as a linebacker.

“We had different captains every week, but Dylan could have been one all year,” said Lerma. “He has great work habits.”

C.J. Newey, whose high school career began at Los Lunas High and took him to other schools before he landed at Belen, was a second-team all-district cornerback as a senior.

“C.J. is such a competitor for a guy his size,” said Lerma. “He had a solid year.”

Stetson Schutte was used more on offense as a junior, but saw more action at safety in 2012. The senior made the 6-4A second team, and had seven interceptions.

“I think the state leader in picks had eight,” said Lerma. “This was his first year in the secondary, and I wish we could have gotten him more recognition.”

Of all the preseason all-district forecasts, few would have predicted Jeff Kincade would have ended up on the 6-4A honorable mention list. The hard-working senior impressed Lerma.

“He’s the most improved guy we had,” said the coach. “Jeff improved leaps and bounds. That kind of progress is great to see.”

That was all the male all-district Eagles, but not all of the honorees. Kaitlyn D’Arcangeli, an all-star girls soccer player, asked Lerma if she could placekick for the Eagle football team, and the coach allowed D’Arcangeli to become the first female BHS player in about eight years.

D’Arcangeli was named to the 6-4A honorable mention list.

“What a competitor,” said the coach. “She was steady and consistent, and made the team better.”

Lerma said he was looking forward to visiting his mother, Lydia, in south Texas over the holidays. He said right now he plans to return for a sixth year of coaching the Eagles.


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