County teams all victorious in crucial week one contests
All three Valencia County high school football teams started their seasons with wins Friday night, the first night on the gridiron this season.
In the News-Bulletin’s Game of the Week, Belen defeated Deming in a close defensive match-up, while Los Lunas dominated Aztec at home in a mercy rule-shortened game and Valencia traveled to Moriarty and defeated the Pintos.
The host Tigers from LLHS scored 22 second-half points and amassed nearly 500 yards of total offense in shutting out the visiting Tigers at Willie Chavez Field in Los Lunas Friday night.
The turning point came early for Los Lunas (1-0) as the Tiger defense forced an Aztec fumble on the one yard line then scored on a 97-yard pass play for senior Anthony Sanchez to Chris Sanchez to give LLHS a lead they would never relinquish.
“To stop their offense and come back with a 98-yard touchdown was a huge momentum shift for us,” said coach Duane Toliver. “The defense is what won the game for us. Anytime the other team doesn’t score, the defense has to be commended. They did a great job.”
Aztec’s Ryneal Lewis-Adams picked up 131 yards on 10 carries but Los Lunas harassed the Northern Tigers’ quarterback into two interceptions and just 97 yards of passing.
By contrast, LLHS’ Anthony Sanchez threw for 302 yards on 16-of-23 passing with five touchdowns in his debut under center for the Tigers.
Senior Jalen Chavez also ran for 101 yards on 16 carries while senior receiver Jacob Holland caught 10 passes for 155 yards and Darron gallegos racked up 97 yards of total offense for the game. The Tigers offense also had 20 first downs to Aztec’s nine and was only penalized five times for 25 yards.
Los Lunas next hosts another Tiger team Friday night: visiting Alamogordo. The Class 5A Tigers, who were off last week, finished 3-7 last season, including a 20-0 shutout to LLHS in the first game of the season.
In a grind-it-out type of game at Belen High, the Eagles led 16-6 midway through the third quarter then held off a late charge by the Wildcats to win 23-20 at Belen High in the season opener for both teams.
Deming (0-1) managed a late score to make the game tight, but the Eagles recovered an onside kick with just over a minute left in the game, then running out the clock to secure the win, in a rematch of last season’s Class 4A state semifinals match-up.
“Our defense hung in there and we were able to generate enough offense to keep the defense off the field,” said Eagle coach John Lerma. “But it was anybody’s ball game at the end. We beat a very good football team tonight.”
Trent Barba led all rushers with 131 yards on 17 carries and Chris Peralta threw for 44 yards and one touchdown in the win.
Deming took a 6-0 lead early in the first quarter, but Belen took the lead for good on a 17-yard run by junior fullback Manuel Romero minutes later. Senior tailback Andrew Castillo padded the Eagle lead with a 4-yard run with 1:54 left in the first quarter to give Belen a 13-6 lead, which it took into the half after a scoreless second quarter by both teams.
The Eagles extended the lead to 16-6 on a 36-yard field goal by senior Tristan Baca early in the third quarter. The Wildcats mounted a long drive and scored to cut the lead to 16-13 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
But Belen sealed the game when junior quarterback Chris Peralta found senior tight end Isaac Valdez open in the middle of the field for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 3:37 left in the game.
Deming would respond with a touchdown of their own, but the Eagles easily covered the ensuing onside kick, then ran out the clock for the win.
“I told our line ‘First man to hit them low tonight is going to win the game,’” said Valdez, who was also a key element of the Eagles defense at linebacker. “(At the end) we just came together, it’s what you have to do. We came together as a ball club.”
Belen next travels to Albuquerque’s Milne Stadium Friday night to play Del Norte. The Knights defeated Rio Grande 41-21 in their season opener Friday night.
The Jaguars got big runs from Manuel Aragon and Nate Nash in the second and third quarters and amassed almost 200 yards on the ground in defeating the host Pintos 23-14 in Moriarty Friday night.
Nash scored on a 70-yard run early in the second quarter and Aragon’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter sealed the game for Valencia (1-0).
“That was a back-breaker coming out after the half,” said coach Kevin Jolley. “The defense did a great job of shutting them out in the second half. They played hard and finished the game great.”
Kicker Neeko Williams started the scoring with a 24-yard field goal for the Jags and Joshua Burbank finished it with a 32-yard run with just under two minutes left in the game.
Valencia’s defense forced three turnovers for the game, two fumbles and one interception while the offense racked up 198 yards on the ground, with Burbank leading in rushing with 82 yards on 10 carries and Nash gaining 102 all-purpose yards for the game.
Seniors Estevan Gallegos and Anthony Gonzalez each led the Jags with seven tackles while junior Nathan Jolley tallied two sacks and recovered a fumble.
Valencia next plays Albuquerque Rio Grande from Class 5A Saturday at Valencia High School. The Ravens lost to Class 4A Albuquerque Del Norte 41-21 Friday night