PLOWED UNDER: Valencia stuns Belen 7-0 in key match-up

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In the News-Bulletin’s 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 ever win on Belen’s home field.

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 Los 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.

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

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

“Don’t Panic.”

Those were the simple words of 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 a 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 Valencia-Belen Heritage Trophy, known simply as “The Plow.”

“It’s amazing to come here and get a win,” said Valencia junior quarterback Garrett Gibson. “It’s like winning the Super Bowl. I’m going to Disney World now.”

Gibson scored the game’s 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.

“That was a huge defensive struggle,” said VHS coach Jolley of the game. “We did a great job defensively. They moved the ball, but when we needed to get the stop, we got them.”

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

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.

“We were out of sync and that was because of them,” said Belen coach John Lerma. “They came to play and they played hard and had their kids prepared. They deserve full credit.”

Despite VHS’ dominating play, Belen still 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 second-and-10 play, BHS suffered it’s final miscue of the night as 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.

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, forced Belen to punt the ball away.

“We needed to seal the deal,” said Peperas of the Jags’ final two defensive stands. “They only needed a touchdown with two minutes to go. We just had to take it home.”

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 its head.

It also 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 Semifinal that season, losing 47-41 to Aztec in Aztec.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: TRASE PEPERAS, right, of Valencia High runs through the tackle of Belen’s Elisasib Baltierrez, left, after a crucial interception Friday night.

Los Lunas 49, Gallup Miyamura 6

Senior quarterback Darron Gallegos combined for 315 yards of total offense, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another to lead the Tigers to their third straight win in District 6-4A Friday night to set up a showdown for first place in league this Friday against crosstown rivals Valencia.

Against Miyamura, Los Lunas (7-3, 3-1) trailed 6-0 early before scoring 28 unanswered points to take a 28-6 half-time lead.

“We got off to a slow start but we got a lot of help from our defense,” said LLHS coach Duane Toliver of the game against Miyamura.

Two of Gallegos’ touchdown passes went to senior receiver Chris Sanchez, who returned from a three-game suspension for violating team rules, as did fellow senior receiver Ryan Abeita. Senior running back Jalen Chavez also ran for 132 yards on nine carries and three touchdowns in the win. Gallegos also had 18 tackles on defense.

Ranked No. 4 in Class 4A in this week’s Max Preps poll, Los Lunas now closes the season against the Jaguars Friday night.

Toliver said stopping Valencia Friday, which is crucial to the Tiger’s district title hopes, will not be easy.

“We’ll need to stop the run and be able to get stops on defense,” he said. “The biggest thing is for us to be able to put points on the board. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”