WEB EXCLUSIVE: Game of the Week – Mistakes cost Valencia in homecoming loss

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The Valencia Jaguars faced Class 4A’s top runner Friday night and fared poorly, losing their homecoming game to visiting Atrisco Heritge in the News-Bulletin’s Game of the Week.

The county’s other two prep football teams both fell from the ranks of the undefeated Friday night as well as 5A’s Albuquerque Sandia topped Los Lunas 28-7 at Wilson Stadium in the Duke City and host Belen came up short against defending 4A champs Roswell Goddard 14-9 in a rematch of last year’s 4A state semifinal game. You can read all about the Tigers’ and Eagles’ games in Thursday’s edition of the News-Bulletin.

ATRISCO HERITAGE 26, VALENCIA HIGH 6

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: Sophomore Marcos Griego (44) is swarmed by Atrisco Heritage defenders during the Jaguars' homecoing game Friday night at Jaguar Stadium.

TOMÉ – The Jaguars found out immediately that undefeated Atrisco Heritage Academy’s running back Ricci Alvidrez is as good as advertised Friday night. The junior ran back the opening kick-off 92 yards for a touchdown and added two more touchdowns in the game as AHA  stymied Valencia’s offense and forced four turnovers to ruin the home Jaguars’ homecoming and push VHS to 2-2 on the season.

“When you get a bad start, it’s tough,” said junior quarterback Garrett Gibson, “It took us a little to get back up. We got going a little bit but we couldn’t stay consistent. That’s what killed us, our play in the red zone. We’ve got to work on that.”

Alvidrez, who ran for nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns last week, was slowed a bit by the VHS defense but still managed three touchdowns, including a breakaway 40-yard TD run that capped scoring and put to rest Valencia’s chances for a comeback in the fourth quarter.
Alvidrez finished with 223 rushing yards on 22 carries, and 313 yards of total offense as the workhorse for Atrisco. The junior appeared to be stopped in the fourth quarter when senior linebacker Ramon Fuentes hit him behind the line of scrimmage, knocking off Alvidrez’ helmet and leaving him crumpled on the ground. But the Atrisco junior returned four plays later and scored on a long run not long after that.

“We haven’t faced anybody with (that kind) of speed,” said VHS coach Kevin Jolley. “He (Alvidrez) is awfully good.”

The home Jaguars had success moving the ball early on, but were unable to get any points off the board. After Alvidrez’ kick-off score, Valencia drove down the field effectively but stalled at the Atrisco 18-yard-line and came up short on a field goal attempt.

The Valencis defense was able to force the visiting Jaguars into two consecutive drives that ended with turnovers on downs, but could not capitalize, turning the ball over on downs themselves on the next drive then suffered a fumble on offense.

Soon after, Atrisco scored its second touchdown, a 47-yard run by Alvidrez just before the end of the first quarter to take a 12-0 lead.

Atrisco caused another fumble on the next Valencia possession as junior quarterback Garrett Gibson was hit hard while attempting to pass. However, the visiting Jaguars were unable to capitalize on the turnover and VHS got the ball back. The home Jags would again drive deep into Atrisco territory but gave the ball up on downs after stalling at the 12-yard-line and went into halftime trailing 12-0.

After again turning the ball over on downs in Atrisco territory, Valencia got a break, when the visiting Jaguars fumble the ball. But the host Jags gave the ball over on downs five plays later and Aaron Bean scored on a 44-yard touchdown run five plays later to give Atrisco a 20-0 lead.

Valencia responded with another long drive, but fumbled the ball away on the Atrisco 13-yard-line to end another promising drive. The home Jags then forced a punt and finally scored on their next possession when Gibson connected with sophomore Tyler McClarran on a 21-yard touchdown strike.

Valencia forced another punt but Atrisco intercepted a Gibson pass on the next possession then drove for the final score of the game.

The host Jaguars finished with 203 total yards on offense. Gibson went 5-of-24 passing for 56 yards and an interception. McClarran had 93 yards of total offense and was VHS’ leading rusher with 55 yards on six carries and leading receiver with 3 catches for 38 yards. Junior Josh Burbank returned to the field after missing the Artesia game due to family commitments to gain 32 yards on 12 carries.

“We did a great job offensively and defensively. We moved the ball. We had opportunities to punch some things in that we didn’t get early on,” said Jolley. “To hold that offense to 20 points, to have opportunities to score, was great. We’re pretty solid right now. We’re just going to get better.”

Atrisco Heirtage (4-0) finished with 326 yards of total offense, two-third of which came from the legs of Alvidrez.