Valencia County prep football teams earn Internet respect

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Our former sports editor here at the News-Bulletin, Jason Brooks, was fond of working the titles of classic rock songs into his columns.

For this week, and this week only, I’ll take a page from Jason’s old playbook.

Rock icons KISS had the song “Detroit Rock City.”

Here, we have a different title for the song that’s likely to top the charts:

“Valencia — Football County.”

It’s not catchy, I’ll grant you.But it illustrates the respect Albuquerque-based Kyle Henderson is showing county teams on his prep sports website, www.NMPreps.com.

Henderson shows that respect in his 2013 pre-season poll for Class 4A. His on-line poll has Los Lunas High School ranked at No. 2 behind the only team to beat the Tigers last season, defending state champions Roswell Goddard.

“The story line for the 2013 season is pretty straight forward. Can (first year) Head Coach Duane Toliver keep the program rolling?” he wrote in his write-up of the team.

Henderson has LLHS’ Interstate 25 rival Belen in at No. 4, citing the team’s recent success under coach John Lerma and an abundance of youthful talent.

Two teams in the top five for a pre-season poll is a pretty big coup for Valencia County, especially when you consider that Henderson has Belen and Los Lunas ahead of perennial state championship contenders Artesia (ranked No. 5), Aztec (No. 9) and Piedra Vista (No. 6).

Valencia High comes in at 14 in Henderson’s poll. Not bad for a youthful team still working its way back toward the playoffs under second-year coach Kevin Jolley.

And Henderson sees some big things for the Jaguars, as he writes, “… with athletes like Nate Nash and Josh Burbank returning, Valencia County is likely to have three play-off teams this year.”

This is pretty high praise but not surprising considering that Valencia County teams have been in the 4A final four playoff field for four years running (Belen in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012; Los Lunas in 2012; and Valencia in 2011) and state runners-up twice in the past five years (Belen in 2009; Los Lunas in 2012).

Having three county schools in the Class 4A playoffs would be a huge coup and would definitely signal to the rest of the state what county residents already know: prep football is king in Valencia County.

Just how possible it’s going to be for the county to get all three teams into the Class 4A playoffs come November?

That answer to that question will come almost immediately as all three county teams will play top 10 teams from the www.NMPreps.com 4A poll in week one of the season.

Belen has the toughest assignment as No. 3 Deming comes to Belen. Valencia opens at No. 7 Moriarty, while Los Lunas will entertain No. 9 Aztec at Willie Chavez Field.

With any luck, Belen and Los Lunas will be as highly ranked (and undefeated) come Friday, Oct. 11, when the two teams face each other in Los Lunas.

And Valencia? Well, their playoff chances hinge on the final two games of their season — at Belen on Nov. 1 and at home against the Tigers on Nov. 8.

But, of course, there’s plenty of football to be played between now and then. Stay tuned.