Multiple miscues the end for Belen against Scorpions

........................................................................................................................................................................................

During the holiday season, a good host is expected to be generous.

If that’s true, the Farmington Scorpions were horrible hosts Saturday, taking the ball repeatedly from visiting Belen in defeating the Eagles 14-7 in the Class 4A State Semifinals at Hutchinson Stadium in Farmington.

News-Bulletin file photo: BELEN’s ANDREW CASTILLO, far right, shown here against Los Lunas earlier in the season, scored the Eagles’ lone touchdown against Farmington in Saturday’s Class 4A State Semifinal game.

The Scorpions, who advanced to their first championship since 1962 with the win, forced five turnovers from the normally steady Belen offense. Farmington also consistently kept the Eagles in poor field position, putting the Belen defense under pressure for much of the game.

“I thought our defense played well enough to win,” said coach John Lerma after the game. “(But) our offense sputtered and we had five turnovers. Anytime you have turnovers, it’s hard to win.”

The turnover woes started immediately for Belen, which fumble the ball away on its first drive while at its own 11-yard line.

The Scorps scored four plays later on a 4-yard run by quarterback Jacob Lucas just seven minutes into the game.

From there, the game turned into a stalemate as the Scorpions defense kept the Eagles pinned deep in their own territory.

But the Belen defense, led by linebacker Isaac Valdez and defensive end Tristan Baca, was able to keep the Farmington offense largely in check.

News-Bulletin file photo: QUARTERBACK CHRIS PERALTA and the Belen offense gained 265 yards against Farmington in Saturday’s state semfinal game.

Trailing 7-0 at halftime, Belen forced a fumble on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter, taking the ball on the Scorpions’ 17-yard-line.

But BHS fumbled the ball away on the next play, surrendering their short-lived advantage.

Belen finally got its offense going late in the third quarter and tied the game when senior Andrew Castillo took a pitch on a sweep play.

Castillo shook a few tacklers, then bolted up the field for a 52-yard touchdown run to tie the game 7-7 with just over a minute left in the third quarter.

But the Scorps immediately responded, going on a methodical 10-play, 84-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard run by senior running back Brian Farley that gave Farmington a 14-7 lead. Farley finished the game with 83 rushing yards on 17 carries.

Belen would drive inside deep into Scorpions territory twice in the fourth quarter but were stopped twice — first giving the ball up on downs on a fourth-and-2 situation at the FHS 22-yard-line.

News-Bulletin file photo: BELEN’S ISAAC VALDEZ, left, and Tristan Baca, right, shown here against Los Lunas, anchored a determined defensive effort in the Eagles’ 14-7 loss to Farmington Saturday.

Then, with BHS driving again with under a minute to go, Farmington forced an interception at the Scorps’ 18-yard-line to secure the win.

“Both interceptions were on deflections,” said Lerma. “They defended the pass very well.

“We didn’t execute very well,” Lerma said. “But we were definitely playing one of the best defenses in the state.”

Belen finished the game out-gaining the Scorpions 265 yards to 157. Junior Chris Peralta finished with 89 yards of total offense for the Eagles, throwing for 62 yards on 6-of-10 passing with three interceptions. Castillo finished with 73 yards rushing on 10 carries.

Farmington (11-1) hosts Roswell Goddard in the Class 4A championship game Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Scorps have not won a state title in football in 61 years, winning last in 1952 with a team that finished 10-0.

With the bulk of the team returning in 2014, the Eagles should be able to continue playing at the stellar level they’ve ascended to since Lerma took over the program in 2008.

But losing productive seniors like Valdez, Castillo and running back/linebacker Trenton Barba will definitely sting the Eagles, especially in the running back corps. But experience should not be a problem.

“We’ll carry about 30 seniors next season,” Lerma said. “For Belen, that’s just phenomenal. The program is in really good shape.”