The Toppers run onto the field at Bernalillo Friday evening to play the Bernalillo Spartan’s in a non-conference game. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Running back Teke Nieto drives downfield in the first quarter through heavy traffic. Nieto had some good carries, but those carries weren’t enough to sustain many drives. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
By MIKE COTE
Going into Friday night’s game at Bernalillo, the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team knew it was facing the toughest defense it had seen so far in 2021.
And the Bernalillo Spartans didn’t disappoint.
The Spartans (3-0), who had not given up a single point in their first two games, kept that scoreless streak intact. The Spartan defense, which features a ball-hawking secondary, picked off the Hilltoppers 6 times Friday.
Friday’s game in Bernalillo was broadcast by the “Voice of the Hilltoppers” Gene Mortensen on the Los Alamos Daily Post’s YouTube channel.
Those turnovers often led to short fields for Bernalillo’s offense, which took advantage. Bernalillo won convincingly 35-0 at home Friday, handing the Hilltoppers their first loss of the season.
Bernalillo not only swarmed the ball with its defensive backs, it also brought pressure from several different spots throughout the game, keeping quarterback Jacob Green under heavy pressure.
Green was sacked three times in the first half and hit on a majority of his dropbacks.
Despite the pressure, Green still threw for better than 100 yards in the first half, then threw an apparent touchdown in the second half to his favorite target, Jeremiah Hartzol, in the third quarter with the Hilltoppers still having time to get back into the ballgame.
Hartzol’s 51-yard catch-and-run was negated by a downfield holding call, however. Los Alamos would ultimately come up empty on the drive.
Outside of that, the Hilltoppers’ chances to put points on the board were limited.
The Hilltopper offense, which had been very good in its first two games, found only spotty success against Bernalillo’s offense. Teke Nieto had some good carries from his running back slot, but those carries weren’t enough to sustain many drives.
For Bernalillo, Diego Molinar had a pair of interceptions, while four other Spartans, including their top safety, Tristen Ludi-Herrera, recorded an interception. On offense, quarterback Jacob Pino threw four touchdown passes.
The Hilltopper defense was able to mostly keep the Spartans’ running game bottled up, however. David Llanez, who averaged better than 20 yards per carry a week earlier against Espanola Valley, finished with just 49 yards Friday, with a big chunk of that total coming on two plays.
The Hilltopper defensive front, particularly defensive lineman Roland Esch, was responsible for keeping the lid on the potent Spartan ground game.
Los Alamos will have a chance to get back on track this coming Friday when it takes on a tough St. Michael’s squad. St. Michael’s also suffered its first loss of the season this past weekend, being on the wrong end of a surprising 19-7 decision when it faced Santa Fe.
Jeremiah Hartzol’s 51-yard catch-and-run was called back by a downfield holding call in the first quarter. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Luke Gonzales tries to turn the corner but encounters Spartan tacklers. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Jeremiah Hartzol and Caden Thornton try to defend the pass to Spartan’s Tristen Ludi-Herrera in the first quarter. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Jehoran Quintana blocks an extra point attempt by Noe Rivas following the Spartan’s second touchdown. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com
Chris Meierdierks successfully defends a pass attempt to Tristen Ludi-Herrera in the second quarter. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com