A Year of Milestones

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In a year full of personal milestones, Belen football coach John Lerma added two more in the month of December — Class 3A/4A All-Metro Coach of the Year and retired educator.

Lerma was presented with his Coach of the Year honor at the Albuquerque Football Coaches Association’s annual All-Metro Award Banquet in Albuquerque on Sunday, Dec. 15.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: BELEN FOOTBALL COACH John Lerma was named the Class 3A/4A All-Metro Coach of the Year in December.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the award,” Lerma said by the phone from McAllen, Texas. “It wasn’t expected. When you win an honor like this you share it with everyone — the players, the coaches. It was nice to see Belen recognized in the metro area.”

Five days after the award sceremony, Lerma taught his last class at Belen High School, he said, officially retiring as an educator after nearly 44 years in the classroom.

Lerma, who turns 67 in July, will remain coaching the Eagles football team next year, though he said he will spend this spring in McAllen, Texas, where his 92-year-old mother, Lydia, resides, but said he will return for summer workouts and the fall season.

Assistant coach Lawrence Sanchez is in charge of the program while Lerma is in Texas, Lerma said.

“To be in McAllen and to be able to spend a lot of time with my mother is very special,” Lerma said. “I’m grateful to be able to do that. I’m grateful that the school district and Superintendent (Ron) Marquez were able to allow me to do this. It gives me a lot of peace of mind.”

Lerma said while he will be back for the 2014 season, he said he will evaluate his status “on a year-to-year basis” from here on out.

“At this age, I want to go year-to-year,” Lerma said. “You have to know how you’re feeling about it. But I’ll definitely be back for another year (in 2014). I’ve really enjoyed Belen. It’s been a wonderful six years.”

Under Lerma, Belen finished the 2013 season with a 9-3 record, falling 14-7 to eventual state champions Farmington on Nov. 30. Lerma took over the Eagles’ football program in May 2008 and has won five district titles in his six years at Belen, going 57-12 with an appearance in the Class 4A state championship game in 2009.