Chargers spoil Hilltopper Homecoming

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By Mike Cote

Homecoming night wasn’t as festive as the Los Alamos Hilltopper football  team hoped it would be.

The visiting Albuquerque Academy Chargers wasted no time jumping on the Hilltoppers Friday night at Sullivan Field. The Chargers led 14-0 after just one quarter and cruised to a 37-6 win.

The loss in the 2009 Homecoming contest was the third-straight drubbing taken by Los Alamos, as it prepares for its District 2AAAA opener this week against Taos.

“What hurt us was their halfback Brandon Branch,” said Hilltopper head coach Bob Scott Saturday morning. “He was the go-to-guy. We worked on that all week.”

Branch had a big night for Academy, including going 90 yards for one of the Chargers’ first half scores. Altogether he touched the ball on 10 plays for 245 yards and four touchdowns.

The Chargers (5-0) picked up their third decisive victory of the season against a District 2AAAA opponent — they play in Class AAA — having already beaten Taos and Bernalillo in 2009.

Los Alamos managed just one score Friday night, with quarterback Kory Balog connecting with wingback Ryan Schleft on a 35-yard pass play at 9:58 in the third quarter. The touchdown was just the second of the season for the Hilltoppers’ offense and Balog’s first touchdown toss.

“We had our ups and downs and we have to take it and get ready for district,” Schleft said after the contest. “But overall we stayed together.”

Despite a rough predistrict season — the Hilltoppers have one more nondistrict contest scheduled for Oct. 16 at Farmington — Los Alamos has as good a chance as any team in 2AAAA to grab the district crown and get into the playoffs. No team in the district has a winning record after six weeks in the season and heading into Friday’s game, only Española Valley had earned more than one win this season. Los Alamos has had arguably the toughest predistrict schedule of any of the district’s teams.

“We start a whole new season come Monday,” Scott said. “Whatever happened in the past doesn’t matter.”

In the midst of being outscored by a combined 141-14 in the last three games, Los Alamos has been focusing on the little victories.

“Overall we won the inch-by-inch game but the Chargers had three big plays that they scored on that we couldn’t answer,” Hilltopper Wade Archuleta said. “I’m proud of my team for not breaking down.”

Editor’s Note: Brandon Owens and Morrie Pongratz contributed to this report.