Football: Toppers throttled by Belen

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By Mike Cote

BELEN — While things got ugly Friday night, they didn’t get as ugly as they could’ve.

Friday night, the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team took on the top-ranked team in the state and got a first-hand look at why it’s the top-ranked team. Los Alamos fell hard to the Belen Eagles on the road, 54-8.

However, things weren’t quite as bad as they seemed.

Los Alamos earned its first offensive touchdown of the 2009 season in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of one of Belen’s few miscues on the night. Following a Belen fumble early in the fourth quarter, the Hilltoppers put together a six-play, 31-yard drive capped by a 4-yard touchdown push by wingback Marshall Naranjo. Naranjo started off tackle but bounced the run outside and kept his footing long enough to get across the goal line for the score.

Before the touchdown, Los Alamos had produced just three points on offense and none in the previous nine quarters.

“That was good,” Los Alamos head coach Bob Scott said. “The kids needed that. We needed to get off that snide.”

But Los Alamos’ defense had no counter for the most potent offense in the state, particularly in the first half.

Belen rolled up 330 yards of offense, all of it on the ground, in the first half. Tailback Dan Jaramillo and quarterback Dylan Barba combined for seven touchdowns between them in the first half alone, including Barba’s 50-yard untouched option run on the fifth play from scrimmage and Jaramillo’s 56-yard run less than two minutes later following a Hilltopper turnover.

The Eagles (5-0) haven’t won a game this season by fewer than 30 points and had pitched two straight shutouts going into Friday’s game against Los Alamos.

The Eagles were the consensus No. 1 team in Class AAAA this week according to the New Mexico High School Coaches Association poll, the second straight week they’d held that spot, and have allowed just 48 points this season.

While Scott isn’t big on moral victories, he said he was much happier with the effort Friday than with his team’s 53-0 loss a week earlier at Silver, a game in which he said the Hilltoppers packed it in during the second half.

Los Alamos had its two best drives of the game, however, in the latter part of the second half. Late in the third quarter, Los Alamos moved the ball from its 20 all the way down to the Belen 30, its best offensive possession of the night, before turning the ball over on downs on the first play of the fourth quarter.

After a Belen fumble on its own 31, Hilltopper quarterback Kory Balog helped engineer the scoring drive. Balog hit tight end John Janke for 16 yards on the first play following the fumble, then Naranjo and Wade Archuleta made tough runs on the outside and the middle to get the ball inside the Belen 5.

Archuleta would score the 2-point conversion following Naranjo’s touchdown.

“We’ve got to keep fighting,” Scott said. “We can’t quit. (Against Silver), I thought we quit. This week we didn’t stop fighting.”

The Eagles, for their part, didn’t keep their starters in much beyond the teams’ first possessions of the third quarter. The first string offense came out throwing to open the second half — it hadn’t attempted a pass in the first half. Barba’s fourth pass attempt was picked off in the end zone by Balog.

Los Alamos (1-3) had some injuries to contend with, however. Travis Milligan broke his foot during the week in practice before Friday’s game, then in the game, Janke and Taylor Morrison both went down during the contest.