WEB EXCLUSIVE – Game of the Week: Bad luck Jags fall to Alamo

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TOME – The next Friday the 13th doesn’t come until February. But the unluckiest of all Fridays made an early visit to the Valencia Jaguars.

Looking snake-bitten almost from the opening kickoff, Valencia found its normally explosive offense defused and its defense victimized early and often by the visiting Alamogordo Tigers, who beat the Jags 39-0 Friday night.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA RUNNING BACK Tyler McClarran (30) is tackled by a host of Alamogordo defenders during the Jaguars 39-0 loss Friday night at Valencia High School.

“We’ve talked about the numbers all along, talked about our depth in positions that we’re shallow and it showed tonight,” said coach Kevin Jolley. “Not to take anything away from Alamogordo. They did a great job. We didn’t play our best and we’ve just got to improve.”

Alamo got big games sophomore Kyle Hooper and reserve running back Hunter Graham, racking up over 500 yards of total offense while the swarming Tiger defense forced four turnovers in shutting down out the Jaguars’ potent Flexibone offense.

Hooper threw four touchdowns, three to junior Brandon Henderson, and amassed 240 passing yards on 17-of-27 for Alamo (0-1) while running Graham ran for 181 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns. The Tigers finished with 554 yards of total offense on the night.

By contrast, Valencia (0-1) managed just 189 yards of total offense as its swift senior running backs, Joshua Burbank and Tyler McClarran, were held to 30 and 39 yards on the ground respectively. Senior quarterback Garrett Gibson was harassed throughout the game, whether running the option or passing. Gibson had just 61 yards of total offense, going 5-of-16 passing for 61 yards and ran for 27 yards, throwing one interception.

The Jaguars played without senior running back/defensive back Nate Nash, who injured his left hamstring during practice on Wednesday and tried to go Friday but sat with his leg iced after just three plays. Without Nash, Valencia looked out of sync on both sides of the ball as they struggled to compensate for his loss, shuffling their line-up to compensate.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA QUARTERBACK Garret Gibson (9) is checked out following a possible head injury while injured running back/cornerback Nate Nash (22) sits on the bench during the Jags loss to Alamogordo Friday night.

“We fell apart,” said VHS running back Joshua Burbank. “After Nate went down we had a change of personnel and we weren’t prepared to play Ironman ball. We took this game a little too lightly and didn’t prepare. And that showed.”

Still the Jaguars looked to be ready to give Alamo a game early. The Tigers mounted long drives on their first two possessions, both punctuated by touchdown passes by Hooper.

Valencia took advantage of a pair of Alamogordo penalties and looked to be driving for a tying score on their first possession of the game, but the Tigers “D” stopped them the Jags on a Fourth-and-6, catching Burbank on a sweep as VHS turned the ball over on downs.

Down 12-0, Valencia again drove into Tiger territory on their second possession, but an Alamo defender knocked the ball out of Gibson’s hand as he ran an option keeper to the left sideline and the Tigers recovered.

“We were moving the ball, and I thought we could get around the corner and gain some yards but they stopped Josh,” Jolley said. “Coming down again we fumble and that was disheartening. It was a tough one. The kids start looking down and that’s a tough one.”

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA DEFENSIVE BACK Joshua Burbank tackles Alamogordo's Hunter Graham during the Valencia-Alamogordo football game Friday night.

With the negative tone for the game set, the aggressive Tigers took full advantage, pressing to a 26-0 halftime lead before spending the second half running the ball, and the clock.

Valencia had a chance to score on the final play of the first half, a Gibson pass into the end zone was intercepted to end the half.

The Jags went three-and-out on their first possession of the second half while Alamogordo marched down the field to score again, extending the lead to 32-0 seven minutes in the third quarter.

“No loss is good but we know now we can’t do this again,” Burbank said, “We’ve got to go after it like this is it. We just need to be physically and mentally prepared.”

Valencia now travels to Albuquerque’s Community Stadium on Thursday to take on West Mesa. The Mustangs opened the season with a 36-0 trouncing of Highland on Wednesday.

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