Friday afternoon, Belen students hosted a bonfire they dubbed “Toast the Tiger.”
Friday night, their No. 3 Eagles football team claimed the News-Bulletin’s traveling Chile Roaster trophy by roasting the No. 2 Tigers 31-12 on their home field.
Senior tailback Andrew Castillo ran for a touchdown for BHS and threw for another on a halfback option pass while senior fullback Trenton Barba ran for two short-yardage touchdowns to lead Belen (5-1, 1-0) to its first Valencia Bowl win since 2010.
“We’ve been missing it for two years — we had to get it back,” said Belen junior quarterback Chris Peralta, who carried the Chile Roaster trophy proudly after the win. “We’re keeping it now. We’re not letting it go.”
The Eagles came out with energy, forcing a fumble on Los Lunas’ first play from scrimmage, then scored five plays later on a snaking run by Castillo to take a 7-0 lead.
Three plays later, with Los Lunas driving, Belen forced another turnover, as Castillo intercepted a pass from Tiger sophomore quarterback Anthony Sanchez and the nightmare had begun for Los Lunas.
With the Tiger offense seeming to be out of sync, the Eagles offense found its wings in the second quarter as Peralta completed four consecutive passes before tossing the ball to Castillo, who threw a halfback option pass to a wide open Eliasib Baltierrez for a touchdown to give Belen a 13-0 lead and stunning the Los Lunas crowd into silence in the process.
After another Los Lunas punt, Belen finished a seven play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by senior running back by Barba to boost the Belen lead to 20-0, to the delight of their sizeable following.
The Tigers finally found some rhythm right before halftime as Sanchez drove LLHS 53 yards in four plays, finishing the drive with a laser-accurate 17-yard touchdown pass to high-flying senior receiver Jacob Holland with four seconds left in the second quarter to pull the Tigers to within 20-6 at halftime.
Los Lunas showed some life on its second possession of the second half, putting together a nine-play, 58-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard run by Sanchez to cut the deficit to 20-13.
But Belen junior quarterback Chris Peralta ripped off a 50-yard run on the next play from scrimmage that led to Barba’s second touchdown run, a 1-yard plunge that gave Belen a 26-13 lead midway through the third quarter.
With the momentum back in their hands, the Eagle defense again clamped down on the Los Lunas offense and the Eagles were able to pad their lead with a pair of Tristan Baca field goals in the fourth quarter.
“Our kids played hard, they played enthusiastically and they played with emotion,” said Belen coach John Lerma after the win. “This was the best game we’ve played this year.
Los Lunas coach Duane Toliver said that his team made several uncharacteristic mistakes Friday night.
“We weren’t clicking, the way we played,” Toliver said. “Belen had a lot to do with that, they’re a greatly coached team. We did some things that we haven’t done all year and it cost us.”
The Tigers played without senior running back Jalen Chavez and senior lineman Chris Romero. Both were sitting out due to ejections during Los Lunas’ 55-27 win over Albuquerque St. Pius X in Los Lunas on Sept. 27.
Belen travels to Gallup tonight to play Gallup High (2-4, 0-1) who lost to Valencia last week in both teams’ district opener. Los Lunas heads out to play Grants (1-5, 0-1) Friday night. The Pirates fell to previously winless Gallup Miyamura last weekend.
The Jaguars’ passers went 0-for-5 on the night but VHS didn’t need a passing game as the Jags racked up 352 yards on the ground in grabbing a road win against the Bengals.
The win broke a three-game losing streak for Valencia (3-3, 1-0) and put them tied for the league lead with four games remaining in the district season.
The Jaguars scored 13 unanswered first-half points on their way to a 21-7 halftime lead, then exchanged scores with Gallup (2-4, 0-1) in the third quarter.
Junior running back Nate Nash ran for 184 yards on 15 carries and scored a touchdown while juniors Josh Burbank and Marcos Gallegos each scored a touchdown and ran for 68 yards and 56 yards, respectively. Senior Estevan Gallegos also scored a touchdown and added seven tackles on the defensive side along with junior Tyler McClarran, who also tallied seven tackles, including six solo tackles. Senior Joe Heneghan blocked a field goal and junior quarterback scored a two-point conversion in the second quarter.
Valencia travels back to McKinley County Friday night to face Miyamura, (1-6, 1-0) which stands tied with the Jags and Belen in first place after a 17-7 win at home last week over Grants. The win was the Patriots’ first of the season.