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After a solid showing against a very good Class 4A team, the Los Alamos Hilltopper football liked its chances to get back on track heading into Friday’s homecoming game.
Phillip Romero had other plans.
Romero, a halfback on the very potent single wing offense of the Albuquerque Academy Chargers, rushed for 199 yards and two touchdowns, including a 72-yard scamper on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
The Chargers went on to spoil the Hilltoppers’ homecoming, winning 28-13 at Sullivan Field.
A week earlier, Los Alamos, which had a rough month of September up to that point, played very well against a very tough Belen Eagles squad. The Hilltoppers lost the game 28-14 but actually outscored the Eagles 14-7 in the second half.
Los Alamos (1-5) was hoping that good showing would carry over into Friday’s game against an Academy team which was 4-1 on the season but had played a relatively soft schedule so far.
Instead, the Hilltoppers again spun their wheels on offense, turning the ball over on their first two drives of the night and were shut out in the first half.
Los Alamos wide out Simon Heath was shaking his head after the loss.
“We’ve got people, me included, who don’t take a lot of stuff seriously,” he said. “We’ve got to get going. We came out tonight like we were going to kill them. We underestimated them. You can see the obvious result.”
It was the fifth straight defeat for Los Alamos, which hasn’t scored more than twice in any game since its opener in late August.
Los Alamos had been bitten by the injury bug earlier, but was at full strength for the homecoming contest.
Nevertheless, the team still continues to play short-handed – there are only 25 players on the Hilltoppers’ regular roster – and it appeared to get winded in the second half.
That’s when Romero took over.
Doing much of his damage on the edges behind very well executed blocking schemes, Romero, one of the top rushers in Class 3A this year, rolled up 160 yards in the second half, including the long touchdown run that put the Chargers (5-1) up 14-0 at the time.
Los Alamos was able to get on the board on its next possession.
Hilltopper quarterback Brice Van Etten found wingback Seth Drop for a 43-yard touchdown strike, taking advantage of the Charger defense which was overstacked against the run.
On that drive, Van Etten dove for a first down on a fourth-and-1 from midfield to keep the offense going.
Los Alamos took several chances on fourth down Friday, but that was the only attempt that was successful.
Van Etten would sneak in from a yard out for a touchdown with 4:05 remaining to cut the Academy lead down to two scores after the Chargers immediately answered Los Alamos’ first touchdown with one of their own, but the ensuing onside kick attempt was unsuccessful.
The Hilltoppers finished the contest with 263 total yards, but Van Etten, who looked uncomfortable in the pocket all night, was sacked three times and intercepted twice. Meanwhile, Academy limited Los Alamos’ leading rusher, Xavier Dennison to just 24 yards rushing in the second half after an excellent first half of rushing for better than 8 yards per carry.
For the Chargers, quarterback Devin Maez completed just four passes, but those went for a total of 192 yards and a first half touchdown.
Following the loss, Los Alamos head coach Garett Williams reminded his team that the nondistrict season won’t matter if the Hilltoppers can clinch the District 2-4A title. District play starts this coming Friday when the Hilltoppers host the Bernalillo Spartans.
None of the district’s five teams have more than one win on the season and only Los Alamos hasn’t been outscored by at least triple digits during nondistrict play.
“We do need to execute,” Heath said. “We’ve got to get our plays back together.”
NOTES: Van Etten had an effective second half running the football, going for 44 yards on 6 carries. He finished with a total of 77 yards on the game .... Los Alamos still continues to rack up the penalties. Friday, Los Alamos was flagged 8 times for 55 yards including a pair of 15-yarders .... Friday’s win for the Chargers was their second of the year over a District 2-4A team. They defeated Bernalillo 12-7 in a road contest Sept. 13.