Atomic City Update: A look back at this year’s top moments in sports

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By Phil Scherer

As I look back on the past few months in sports at Los Alamos High School, I’m reminded of how many great memories the athletes have provided to the community since the school year began in August.


I arrived in Los Alamos right after the sports calendar ended for the 2016-17 school year, but I have had the pleasure of following the fall and winter sports since the 2017-18 school year began a few months ago. I have been with the teams through some incredibly high highs, and I have been there to see seasons end on a sour note.  

As 2017 draws to a close, I’d like to take a look back on some of the best moments for the LAHS sports teams since this school year began. And don’t worry spring athletes.

I promise there will be another one of these coming when the school year ends in May.

5. Hockey completes impressive comeback in home opener

Sure, it’s hard for a game at the beginning of the season to match the intensity of a game with playoff implications on the line.

But this was the first time local fans had the opportunity to watch the LAHS hockey team this season, and the show was impressive.

Down 3-1 late in the second period, the Hilltoppers rattled off six straight goals to seize control of the contest against Taos High School and win 7-4.

It was so great to see such a young group of hockey players grow up in front of my eyes that night, and you could almost see the sense of belief building inside of every player as the goals kept coming.

I hope for more of these types of games as the calendar flips to 2018.

4. Boys soccer wins Cernicek Tournament

For the third year in a row, the LAHS boys soccer team walked away from the Louie Cernicek Memorial Tournament as the champions.

The tournament, played at the beginning of the season, appeared easy for the Hilltoppers, which defeated Aztec 4-0, Valencia 2-1 and Los Lunas 4-1 en route to the title.

The tournament showed the talent of the Hilltoppers, as Tristan Semelsberger dominated offensively and the back line showed flashes of what was to come during an outstanding season.

This year’s tournament also held special significance at LAHS because Ann Cernicek, Louie’s daughter, and longtime Hilltoppers’ boys coach, returned the school year to coach the girls team.

Her family was in attendance to hand the tournament trophy to the team that meant so much to Louie Cernicek.

3. Volleyball makes unlikely run in district tournament

The regular season was a struggle for the LAHS volleyball team, to put it lightly.

Heading into the district tournament as Class 2-5A’s lowest seed, and holding a 5-15 record, the teams seemed destined to go home for the season early.

But somehow, this team put together an impressive week of action and shocked everyone. The tournament began on Oct. 30, and the Hilltoppers dominated No. 4 seed Del Norte 3-0.

This was impressive by itself, but the team continued its run the next night, Halloween, with a 3-1 win over Española Valley.

With those two wins, the Hilltoppers advanced to the semifinals, just one win away from a spot in the championship round against Albuquerque Academy.

But, it wasn’t meant to be, as Capital defeated LAHS 3-0 in the semifinals.

Despite the loss, it was an impressive showing for the teams, and gives fans hopes of great things to come in the years ahead.

2. Football beats Española Valley with last-minute touchdown

It was an up-and-down season for the LAHS football team, which put together some impressive wins throughout the regular season, and remained alive in the playoff race until the final game of the season.

There was no bigger win, however, than the one against Española Valley. By any measure, the Hilltoppers had no business winning this game.

The team struggled from the very beginning, and trailed late in the contest 20-15. But LAHS never gave up, and All-District running back Jack Stewart put the team on his back.

He led them down the field with hard-nosed running on the final drive of the game, and scored the game-winning touchdown with exactly one minute left on the clock to give his team the 21-20 victory.

It was a win that shocked even the biggest of Hilltopper fans, and stands out as the signature moment of the season.

1. Girls soccer advances to state championship game

Of all the moments so far this school year, none has been more exciting than having the opportunity to watch the girls soccer team in the state championship game.

The team, led by Cernicek, was exciting to watch all season, and had outstanding players up and down the roster.

In the state tournament, the Hilltoppers took down Grants 10-0 in the first round, and advanced to face St. Pius X in the quarterfinals.

That game went down as a classic, as the Hilltoppers emerged victorious 3-2 in double overtime.

In the semifinals, things went more smoothly in a 4-1 victory over Aztec, setting up a championship match against Albuquerque Academy.

All season, Academy was the one hurdle the Hilltoppers could not clear, falling to them twice in the regular season.

Despite a hard-fought battle, the Hilltoppers lost in the championship 1-0 and finished as the Class 5A runner-ups.