'Toppers face tough test on Homecoming

-A A +A

Football: Los Alamos will host Academy tonight at Sullivan Field

By Mike Cote

Unlike most other teams, the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team won’t be coming home to an easy victory.
For the 2011 Homecoming game, the Hilltoppers will take on a very tough Albuquerque Academy Chargers’ squad. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Tonight’s game is also the finale of Los Alamos’ non-district season. It hosts Bernalillo next week in its first District 2-4A contest.

While getting a victory for Homecoming is always nice, Los Alamos is far more concerned right now about preparing for the district season.

It will, however, be going into the game with some momentum.

The Hilltoppers (1-4) are coming off a 35-8 loss to Belen last week. While a 27-point loss doesn’t seem like that great of a starting-off point, the Hilltoppers played considerably better than most expected to when facing the sixth-ranked team in Class 4A. That performance followed up their first victory of the season, a 21-20 nail biter against the Bloomfield Bobcats.

Los Alamos acknowledges it has a long way to go, but it is seeing a few things move in a positive direction.

“We need to execute,” Hilltopper freshman Jared Mang said. “We’re so close. We just need to get over the hump. We’re improving every week. I don’t think there’s a whole lot to fix.”

Mang, who starts at the wingback position, caught eight passes for 93 yards last week, rushed for Los Alamos’ lone touchdown and completed a 30-yard halfback option throw.

Los Alamos hasn’t won its Homecoming contest since 2007 when it topped Academy 30-0.
Academy, however, is far from that same program.

Under veteran head coach Kevin Carroll, Academy has become one of the upper-echelon teams in Class 3A. Academy is the No. 4 team in the current Class 3A rankings and is also the 3A runner-up coming back from last season.

Academy rolled through the playoffs in 2010 before running into a Mack truck in the form of Lovington for last year’s championship game.

Football is the only sport in which the Chargers play in 3A. Their other teams all play at the 4A level.
So far in 2011, the Chargers are 4-0 and are coming into tonight’s game off a 37-20 victory at Raton.

On the season, Academy has outscored its opponents 199-63. Included in that total is a 49-3 pasting of Bernalillo, the defending District 2-4A champ which Los Alamos will face next week in its district opener.
The Hilltoppers and Chargers met last year, with the Chargers thumping the Hilltoppers 49-7.

Charger running back Alex Harrison is among the top rushers in the state so far, racking up more than 700 yards. Harrison could provide a huge test for the Hilltopper defense, which has allowed 215 points in five games.

Los Alamos’ major goal is to get better before next week’s Bernalillo contest and the start of the district season. The 2-4A race is wide open, considering only the Hilltoppers and the Santa Fe Demons (1-4) have notched victories, although Bernalillo had chances last week at Gallup, but fell 14-13.

“We need to come in, gain some more confidence and start finishing,” Hilltopper head coach Garett Williams said. “If we can do that, we’ve got a great chance of winning district. We’ve got to keep improving every week. If we do that, we’ve got a great shot.”