By Ed Nunez
For Enchantment Sports
On the opening week of 5A a football, there were a few minor surprises. The Artesia Bulldogs suffered a rare loss at Bulldog bowl to class 6A, the Carlsbad Cavemen. Much was expected of Piedra Vista, but it dropped its opener to Los Lunas, and also lost its starting quarterback in the process.
Belen, behind arguably the state’s best running back, senior Diego Casillas, turned back Del Norte, 41-20. Casillas picked up where he left off last year, running for 170 yards and two scores. Roger Holien and I covered the Albuquerque High-Valley game at Milne stadium last Friday night, a contest won by the Vikings 29-8. Before the game, Valley head coach Judge Chavez made it seem as if he wasn’t sure if his team was ready or not. Chavez also the former head coach at Highland and Cibola, returned to take the helm at his alma mater, two years ago.
Senior tailback AJ Beltran scored Balley’s first touchdown for Valley on an 8-yard scamper around right end. It was the first of two touchdowns for Beltran. He later caught a TD pass from senior quarterback, Manuel Sanchez-Vargas later in the fourth quarter.
I came away impressed with this senior-laden Valley team and think it could have a real chance to compete in a classification that Judge Chavez feels it should have been in a long time ago. Faced with declining enrollment, the Vikings will no longer have to face the 6A schools in district with more resources and more numbers on a roster. The Vikings do face 6A power La Cueva Bears today (Thursday, Aug. 30), but after that it is dates against Piedra Vista, Miyamura and Highalnd, teams the Vikings should more than be competitive against. Their first district tests are not until October 19 against Belen and October 26 against the Los Lunas Tigers.
Vargas threw the ball well and was protected nicely by a line led by two-way player, senior Dewayne Burton. Junior lineman Jerome Barboa went down on the first series of the game with what looked like a leg injury, his availability for tonight is uncertain. Senior receivers Jove Messenger, who also stars in basketball and baseball for the Vikings, and senior wide receiver Garret Moseley – who a rangy 6-foot-3, provide good targets for Sanchez-Vargas. The Valley defense contributed a sack for a safety and harassed Albuquerque High senior quarterback, Dominic Mesgale all night. There was some sobering news on the injury front for Valley, as tailback Beltran suffered a fractured foot which may keep him out of action for at least a few weeks.
Holien and I did notice that was one spot that we felt the Vikings may lack, that a running back that can get the tough yards in the red zone. What does this all mean, am I ready to crown Valley the champion of 5A football after one game? Of course not, I just feel that while tough games still await the Vikings, their experience and the fact that they played tough competition last year may serve them well.
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