Valencia outrun by Atrisco; first loss for Tigers, Eagles

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The Valencia Jaguars had their homecoming ruined by Class 4A’s top runner Friday night, while Belen and Los Lunas both fell from the ranks of the undefeated, capping a disappointing night of football.

In TomĂ©, 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 kickoff 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.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA RUNNING BACK Marcos Griego (44) is swarmed by Albuquerque Atrisco Heritage defenders during the Jaguars’ homecoming game Friday night at Jaguar Stadium. The Jaguars lost 26-6.

“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 finished with 223 rushing yards on 22 carries, and 313 yards of total offense as the workhorse for Atrisco, scored 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.

“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’s 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.

A 47-yard run by Alvidrez just before the end of the first quarter gave Atrisco a 12-0 lead they would take in to halftime after another VHS drive stalled deep in the visiting Jags’ territory.

After again turning the ball over on downs in Atrisco territory to start the second half, Valencia got a break, when the visiting Jaguars fumbled 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 (2-2) 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 three 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,” said Jolley. “We had opportunities to punch some things in that we didn’t get early on.”

Atrisco Heritage moved to 3-1 on the season. Valencia entertains visiting Farmington this weekend.

“Farmington is going to be a crucial game,” said Jolley. “We played them pretty tough last year. They’re a pretty good team. We get them at home, which is good for us. But it’s crucial.”

The Scorpions enter the game sitting at No. 5 in the MaxPreps Class 4A rankings, but coming off a 21-2 loss to Durango (Colo.) High last Friday night.

The host Eagles held the Rockets in check with the exception of two big scoring runs as the game at Belen High was mostly a defensive struggle. Goddard (3-1) scored twice in the first half on a pair of long runs to take a 14-3 lead into halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, Belen (3-1) drove the length of the field to score a touchdown with 23 seconds left in regulation. But the Eagles misfired on a two-point conversion then were unable to come up with the ball on the ensuring onside kick, allowing Goddard to escape with the win.

“It was a defensive game on both sides,” said coach John Lerma. “We played with a lot of intensity on both sides of the ball. We had two breakdowns but that was it. We held them in check.”

Lerma said unconverted offensive opportunities in the first half were big in producing the loss.

“We had good field position,” he said. “We just couldn’t capitalize on them. That’s a credit to them. (In the end) I was real proud. We drove 95 yards and they weren’t in a prevent defense. We showed a lot of determination. Our kids never quit.”

Belen, which moved up to No. 2 in the 4A MaxPreps rankings this week, hosts Los Alamos this Friday in their final pre-district game of the season. The Hilltoppers are 1-3 on the season.

“They’ve got some good looking kids and our kids know they can play,” he said. “We’ll face probably the most balanced team we’ll see all year. They’ve got a good quarterback and running back so we’ll have to play well.”

Belen will still be without junior linemen Dominic Martinez and Kevin Garcia, who both fell prey to injuries in the past few weeks. But senior linebacker/tight end Isaac Valdez returns after sitting out against Goddard with concussion-like symptoms.

Things looked good early on for the Tigers, playing the host Matadors at Albuquerque’s Wilson Stadium Friday night. LLHS mached 80 yards for their opening score, a pass from quarterback Anthony Sanchez to receiver Chris Sanchez, that tied the game 7-7.

But Sandia (3-1) stiffled the Los Lunas offense the rest of the game as the Tigers managed just 187 yards of total offense in the game and standout senior running back Jalen Chavez was limited to 46 yards on 10 carries. Overall, the Tigers managed just 79 rushing yards on 24 carries.

“They were keying on Jalen and did a good job of bottling him up,” said coach Duane Toliver. “Their defensive line is as good as anybody’s in the state.”

Anthony Sanchez went 15 of 31 passing for 108 yards and a touchdown, but threw two interceptions and LLHS gave up the ball on a fumble as well.

“We didn’t execute very well and we had a lot of drops in the passing game,” said Toliver. “They (Sandia) ran more against us in the second half. They had short fields because of our turnovers. I’m not saying we gave them the game, but we did make some uncharacteristic mistakes.”

Los Lunas (3-1) now turns their attention to homecoming and their opponent St. Pius X, which beat Bernalillo 16-8 at University Stadium in Albuquerque last week.

“They’re very athletic and they’re going to pose some threats,” said Toliver. “I’m sure they’ll try to do a lot of the same things Sandia did to us. We’ll definitely be focused. One thing about a loss, is it humbles you.”