Positives and negatives: LLHS and BHS football move to 4-1, have issues in wins; VHS stung by Scorps
The No. 2 Los Lunas Tigers and No .3 Belen Eagles both won Friday night, setting up a huge District 6-4A game at Los Lunas High on Friday, Oct. 11, between the two teams currently ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in Class 4A with identical 4-1 records.
Valencia High fell to No. 4 Farmington Friday night as all three teams go into their bye week and do not play this weekend.
In Los Lunas, the mood after Friday night’s homecoming game between host Los Lunas Tigers and Albuquerque St. Pius X was not celebratory, despite LLHS’ domineering win over the Sartans at Willie Chavez Field.
“The positive is (this was) a win — a win is a win is a win,” said a subdued coach Duane Toliver following the win.
“But that’s not the way we want to win,” he concluded.
Senior running back Jalen Chavez scored three first-half touchdowns and sophomore quarterback Anthony Sanchez threw three touchdown passes, two of them to senior receiver Jacob Holland. The Tigers racked up 451 yards of total offense and the “Orange Crush” defense forced seven St. Pius turnovers in the win.
But LLHS’ 35-0 halftime lead was diminished by a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls called on the Tigers during their point-after attempt right before halftime — one on Chavez that caused Toliver to bench his star running back for the second half.
“We were moving the ball well, distributing it well, doing what we needed to do,” said Toliver of the first half performance. “Unfortunately we let some bad coaching hurt our momentum.”
After halftime, the Sartans scored 21 unanswered points, throwing Los Lunas and its homecoming crowd into a frenzy of concern before the Tigers came back, using a short field to mount a drive that ended when Holland caught a pass from Sanchez and dodged five defenders to score a 23-yard touchdown to start the fourth quarter and give Los Lunas a 42-21 advantage that broke St. Pius’ spell.
Despite the successes, Toliver took the extraordinary measure of pulling his first team offense and defense from the game with 10:45 left in the fourth quarter and the game still in the balance.
“Attitude reflects leadership,” Toliver said. “They have a bad attitude, that’s bad leadership on me.
“We didn’t respond to adversity very well and that still comes down to the head coach,” he said.
Responding to a question of whether the St. Pius players may have goaded his players into their multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, Toliver was succinct.
“That’s the easy way out and we’re better than that,” he said. “I coach them to be better than that and I’ll do a better job making them understand what I expect of them.”
Senior Darron Gallegos said the Tigers didn’t respond well to the calls that went against them in the game, especially in the third quarter.
“We were losing our heads there, getting upset,” he said. “We need to start focusing on the next play, because some of our players are getting upset with themselves. We need to start working better with adversity.”
Despite the breakdowns in discipline to finish the first half and in the third quarter, the Tigers were still stellar on both sides of the ball. Sanchez finished 20-of-34 passing with 258 yards with one interception while Chavez ran for 134 yards on just eight carries.
The Tiger defense held St. Pius to j207 yards on offense, with much of those yards coming in the second half.
Holland, who hadn’t played since the Tigers’ opening win over Alamogordo, returned Friday night and caught 10 passes for 171 yards and made two big plays in the fourth quarter, providing the punch that helped Los Lunas knock out St. Pius’ comeback attempt with his two fourth-quarter catches.
After the game, the team and coaches spent nearly 40 minutes sequestered in the Los Lunas field house before players and coaches began exiting.
Los Lunas’ back-up quarterback, junior Ryan Kline, drove the Tigers for their final offensive drive and capped it with a 4-yard TD run, and senior Randy Moore ended St. Pius’ chances pass with an interception-for-a-touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Senior Chris Sanchez had five catches for 76 yards, including one for a touchdown.
St. Pius (3-2) was led by sophomore quarterback Emilio Arellano, who threw for 144 yards on 16-of-32 passing with one touchdown and four interceptions.
Belen 28, Los Alamos 14
The Belen offense struggled at times but the Eagles’ defense held visiting Los Alamos scoreless through three quarters to give BHS a 28-14 win over the Hilltoppers Friday night at Belen High.
Senior Andrew Castillo scored a touchdown on offense, but more importantly came up with three interceptions as Belen, ranked No. 2 going into the game by MaxPreps, moved to 4-1 on the season.
“It wasn’t one of our better games of the year, but we played well enough to win,” said BHS coach John Lerma. “We can play better than what we played (on Friday), but we’ll take the win.”
With junior quarterback Chris Peralta calling the plays and Castillo and junior Trenton Barba running freely, the Eagles racked up 21 first-half points and appeared to be on their way to an easy win over the Toppers, who came into the game on a three-game losing streak.
But Los Alamos forced a few turnovers in the second half and slowed the Eagles’ Veer offense.
With short fields in the second stanza, the Toppers’ Pistol offense finally got the ball moving, but the Eagles defenders were largely able to keep LAHS out of scoring range.
Lerma said his Belen squad will use the upcoming bye week to get healthy and work on fundamentals, saying the team’s focus needs work as well.
“We’ve had a tough three games in a row with a fourth straight game playing a physical team,” he said. “We’re pleased to be 4-1 at this stage of the game.”
Farmington 33, Valencia 12
Hosting No. 4 Farmington Friday night at Jaguar Stadium, Valencia trailed 14-12 going into the crucial fourth quarter. But the visiting Scorpions proved to be too much, out-scoring the Jags 12-0 in the fourth quarter to take a 33-12 win.
Farmington (4-1) took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter Valencia (2-3) trailed just 7-6 at halftime after junior Josh Burbank broke away for a 54-yard touchdown run to start the second quarter.
The Scorps upped their lead to 14-6 midway through the third quarter, but junior Nate Nash broke an 82-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 14-12. The Jags attempted to tie the game with a two-point conversion but failed.
Farmington responded with a touchdown on the next drive to take a 21-12 lead then capped the scoring eight minutes into the fourth quarter with a 25-yard touchdown pass.
“We didn’t execute like we should have, (we) made some mistakes, had a turnover on downs, a fake punt that was wide open but we dropped the ball and gave them an opportunity to score,” said coach Kevin Jolley. “Once you go down a couple touchdowns, you have to go off of your game plan.
“I told the kids, ‘It happens all the time. We didn’t come out and execute and do what we had to,” he said. “I know what we can do and we have played better. We just didn’t play that well Friday night.
With a bye week this week, the Jaguars play their next two on the road, traveling to play Gallup High (2-2) on Friday, Oct. 11, then returning to Gallup to play Miyamura (0-5) on Oct. 18.
With no major injuries to deal with, Jolley said his VHS squad “just needs to get back to basics.”
“(On Friday) I realized that we could do a lot of things mediocre or we can concentrate on getting back to basics and do a few things really good,” he said. “I think that’s what we’ll work toward now, cutting the play list down on offense and working on execution.”