Jaguars, Tigers weather the storm; Eagles fall short
Story by Mike Powers | News-Bulletin Sports Writer | Aug 31, 2023
Mike Powers| News-Bulletin photoJorge Zuniga escapes a Del Norte defender as the Jaguars post a 6-0 lightning shortened victory Friday.
Valencia County high schools have been involved in a combined five varsity football games this season, and each has been impacted by lightning.
That includes Belen, Los Lunas and Valencia home contests Friday night. All three games were called off at halftime or shortly after, but the final scores were official.
“It’s a win,” was one of the few positives Valencia coach LeDarrius Cage could muster after the Jaguars defeated Del Norte 6-0 in a game called at halftime because of intense lightning, followed by torrential rains.
VHS (2-0) was dogged by unforced errors against the Knights (1-1).
“I did like our pace but we have to execute without the penalties,” Cage said. “Penalties slow us down—the game plan changes.”
A fumble ended a long drive on the Jags’ first possession, a touchdown by Cade Ash was called back because of a holding penalty and a dropped pass late in the half negated what appeared to be a certain touchdown.
The only score of the game came late in the first quarter when Daniel Villegas, the Jaguars’ workhorse, reached the end zone from four yards out. The extra point try was wide left.
Valencia dominated Kirtland Central in the opening game of the season, and the celebration may have lingered.
“We weren’t really focused on this week and it showed,” the coach said. “We definitely have to learn from it.”
The Jaguars are off this week before traveling Sept. 8 to play Portales.
The Rams outscored Ruidoso and Highland by a combined total of 99-0.
“We get a little extra time to game plan for Portales,” Cage said. “Hopefully, our game plan is a lot better and we’ll execute at a high level. We’ll need to in order to have a chance against those dudes,” Cage said.
Jesse Jones| News-Bulletin photoEagles’ quarterback Ethan Thomas, who was later injured, drops back to pass during Belen’s 16-7 loss to Manzano on Friday night.
Less than 12 hours after Belen (0-2) lost to Manzano 16-7 Friday, the Eagles were back on the field.
“One of the seniors felt we should be in to practice — in full pads,” said coach Kevin Peña as the team was getting ready to ride a float during the Valencia County Fair parade.
The Eagles got on the board first against the Monarchs when Derian Rodriquez went 60 yards on a swing pass, shaking defenders along the way.
BHS seemingly scored again on an 80-yard interception return by Augustine Lopez, the senior who called for the practice. However, it was nullified because of a block in the back.
“Penalties killed us,” Peña lamented. “Every time we’d get something going, we’d have another penalty.”
The game was called at halftime because of the storm, a disappointing but correct decision, according to Peña.
“The safety of the kids is No. 1,” he said. “I hadn’t seen it rain like that in a while.”
“We had a long talk with the guys,” Peña said Saturday morning. “We’re going to hold each other accountable for our mistakes, and that’s our coaching staff as well. We need to make some adjustments.”
One of those adjustments may be at quarterback, where Ethan Thomas went out with a leg injury. His status is unknown.
The top-ranked and defending 5A champion Artesia Bulldogs, led by former Los Lunas coach Jeremy Maupin, come to town Friday. Peña calls Artesia one of the top three teams in the state, no matter the classification.
Jesse Jones| News-Bulletin photoThe Los Lunas High School defense was dominate in Friday’s 36-7 homecoming victory over Alamogordo.
The weather put a damper on the Los Lunas homecoming game against Alamogordo, which was stopped in the third quarter with LLHS leading 36-7. “The storm got nuts there for a while. We didn’t have a choice — it was bad,” recalled Los Lunas coach Greg Henington.
At one point, power was knocked out at the stadium.
It took several series, but the offense started to play lights out, figuratively.
“Guys started to make some really good plays,” the coach said.
Jordan Howard and Emi De la Torre ran the ball well, and Fabian Trujillo had “a monster game as a receiver and returner,” with well over 100 yards on kick returns.
The quarterback rotation of Damacio Kaneshiro and Kaiden Reese continues to be hard to stop. Kaneshiro had touchdown passes to Trujillo and Ethan Olguin while Reese had a 45 yard touchdown run on his first carry.
Henington said as the Tigers’ offense sputtered early, “the whole defense played pretty darn well.”
Henington praised defenders Gage Marquez, Jasiah Baca, Jason Ussery, Dominic Trujillo and Bryce Norin.
LLHS goes on the road Friday to 2-0 Farmington. The Scorpions started the Tigers on a four game losing streak last season.
“We’ve got to change that, got to right that ship,” Henington said about playing a similar tough stretch again, with Farmington, Roswell and La Cueva in a row. “We’re looking forward to it, for sure. We’ve got to get after it. We’ve been doing what we’re supposed to do so far.”
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.