WEB EXCLUSIVE: Valencia plows past Belen in VCNB Game of the Week

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In the News-Bulletin Game of the Week, the Valencia Jaguars laid claim to first place in District 6-4A Friday night with a stunning 7-0 win over the No. 2 Belen Eagles at Belen High – the program’s first win in Belen since it started playing varsity ball in 2009.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA HIGH players celebrate re-capturing "The Plow" traveling trophy after beating county rivals Belen 7-0 in Belen Friday night. The win places the Jaguars alone in first place in District 6-4A.

The victory vaults the No. 9 Jags to 4-0 in league play with one game left – a home game against crosstown rivals, No. 4 Las Lunas, next week at Valencia. The Tigers went to 7-2 overall and 3-1 in league with a 49-6 win over Gallup Miyamura in Gallup Friday night. Belen falls to 3-1 in league play and 7-2 overall. The Jags are now 6-3 overall and on a four-game winning streak.

Valencia can win its second district title in three years with a win at home against Los Lunas next Friday night.

Valencia 7, Belen 0

“Don’t Panic.”

Those were the simple words of if advice Jaguars coach Kevin Jolley had for his team before their showdown with the host Eagles at Belen High Friday night.

The Jags followed the advice to the tee, getting an early touchdown on offense then consistently clogging up the usually machine-like Belen offense with their swarming defense to earn the win and reclaim “The Plow,” the simple moniker for the Valencia-Belen Heritage Trophy.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: TRASE PEPERAS, right, of Valencia High runs through the tackle of Belen's Elisasib Baltierrez, left, after Peperas' critical fourth quarter interception during the Jaguars-Eagles game Friday night.

VHS’s win was just  the second shutout of the Eagles in the John Lerma era as well as a triumph that is sure to set the Class 4A playoff picture on it’s head.

Valencia’s junior quarterback Garrett Gibson scored the game only touchdown with 2:42 left in the first quarter, breaking loose on an option run to the left, faking defenders with a pitch then running down the sideline 59 yards for a touchdown.

Belen defenders at first thought they had a touchback when an Eagle defender managed to knock the ball from Gibson’s hand. But referees ultimately ruled the play a touchdown, saying Gibson got the ball across the goal line before it was knocked from his hand.

With the lead in hand, the Jaguars defense proceeded to gum up the usually effective Eagles offense for much of the game and  Belen never pushed inside the Jaguars’ 20-yard line.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: BELEN's ANDREW CASTILLO, runs past Valencia's Nathan Jolley during the Eagles' 7-0 loss to the Jaguars Friday night.

Despite that, BHS had a pair of chances late to tie or take the lead late in the fourth quarter.

After blocking a Valencia field goal attempt, the Eagles took over on their own 27-yard-line with 3:01 left in the game. But senior defender Trase Peperas intercepted a pass from BHS quarterback Chris Peralta to stop the drive.

Six plays later, VHS missed their third field goal attempt of the game and Belen had one more chance.

The Eagles drove steadily to the Valencia 37-yard-line and on a 2nd-and-10 play, BHS suffered it’s final miscue of the night as the the center-to-quarterback exchange was fumbled and the Jaguars eagerly jumped on the bouncing ball to seal the victory, to the delight of their large contingent of fans across the field.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: JUNIOR NATE NASH, center, of Valencia High is tackled by Belen's Nick Aragon, left, Tristan Baca, bottom center and Andrew Castillo, right, during the Jaguars 7-0 win over the Egales Friday night.

Belen also had a stroke of good luck midway through the third quarter when the Jaguars fumbled the ball on a punt return. But the VHS defense, aided by a pair of inopportunely timed penalties on the Eagles, was able to force Belen to punt the ball away.

The win puts Valencia in position to win their second district title after winning District 6-4A in 2011. The Jags also advanced to the Class 4A State Championship game that season, losing 47-41 to Aztec in Aztec.

Title to be decided by final games

With the Jags undefeated at 4-0, their game against Los Lunas next Friday would at first glance appear to be a winner-take-all situation.

But, based on the New Mexico Activities Association’s football bylaws regarding tie-breakers, there is a scenario in which the best Los Lunas can finish is second in district due to their 32-13 loss to Belen on Oct. 11.

The tie-breaker would be invoked if all three Valencia County teams finish 4-1 in district play, with each having a win over one another. Belen has a plus-6 point differential after Friday’s loss to Valencia.

  • If the Jags lose by more than 1 point to the Tigers, next Friday then Belen claims the district title with a win over Grants at the Pirates home field next Friday night.
  • If Belen loses to Grants and Los Lunas beats Valencia by more than one point, the Tigers win with the district title.
  • For Valencia, it’s simple – beat Los Lunas and they win the district title.

The loss on Friday for Belen was just the team’s second shutout since 2007, when Coach John Lerma took over the program. The last shutout the Eagles endured also came to a Valencia County opponent as Los Lunas beat BHS 40-0 last season, also at Belen High.