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Coyotes start strong, fizzle out in loss to Eagles

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Roswell quarterback Michael Ponce (10) fights to score a touchdown for the Coyotes behind the block of Auggie Lucero (70) and the RHS offensive line in the Coyotes 29-7 loss to Belen in Belen Friday night. (Valencia County News-Bulletin, Kenn Rodriguez Photo)

BELEN – Miscues and missed opportunities haunted visiting Roswell as the Coyotes promising start against host Belen disintegrated into a 29-7 loss on Friday night.

The Eagle defense forced four turnovers total on the night, two fumbles and two interceptions, and held Roswell on fourth down on two other drives in the loss, which dropped the Coyotes to 2-2 and will likely drop RHS from the consensus top-3 position pollsters had placed Roswell in this week;s Class 5A polls.

Roswell quarterback Michael Ponce finished with 135 yards of total offense. The senior threw for 169 yards and scoring Roswell’s lone touchdown in the first quarter. The Coyotes finished with 231 yards, but only 67 yards rushing. Bruising senior running back Gabriel Najar was limited to 37 yards on 16 carries.

Roswell started the game with great fortune, recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff. But in a portent of the future, the Belen defense stopped the Coyotes on fourth-and-2 at the Eagle 24-yard line to doge a bullet.

Belen then drove 76 yards in nine plays, mostly carries by junior running back Diego Casillas to score the game’s opening touchdown – a 5-yard run by Casillas.

Trailing 6-0, Roswell gave up the ball on a 3-and-out on the next possession but then forced a Belen punt. Taking the ball on the their own 48-yard line after a punt into the wind bounced backwards on landing for a 15-yard punt.

The Coyotes took advantage, mounting a 9-play drive kept alive by a halfback pass on fourth down at the Belen 25-yard line. Two plays later Ponce dove into the end zone to give Roswell it’s first and only lead, 7-6 with 11:08 left in the first half.

Belen responded with a long, pounding drive but Casillas was stripped of the ball in the red zone and Roswell took over at the BHS 10-yard line.

But the Eagle ‘D’ caused a fumble on the next play and Casillas redeemed himself one play later with a 9-yard TD run to give Belen the lead back at 13-7.

Roswell came back, started their final drive of the second quarter at their own 20-yard line and drove all the way to the Eagle 6-yard line. But on fourth-and-goal, the Coyotes muffed the option pitch and Roswell came away with nothing.

The two teams exchanged punts to start the third quarter then the Coyotes staopped the Ealges at their own 38-yard line. After the Belen punt, Roswell committed its first turnover of the second half. Belen took the interception and drove 60 yards to take a 20-6 lead with 6:02 left in the third quarter.

Roswell drove to the Belen 8-yard line on the next drive but an interception on fourth-and-goal ended the drive for the Coyotes. Casillas broke a 90-yard run off on the next play from scrimmage and Casillas scored his fourth TD two play later to end the competitive part of the game. Belen added a field goal in the fourth quarter to pad the final score.

Roswell next hosts Farmington (2-2), which was idle this week. The Coyotes then travel to play Santa Fe and Alamogordo in consecutive weeks before hosting Artesia in both team’s District 4-5A opener on Oct. 20. Artesia, the consensus No. 1 team in 5A, lost a shooout to Class 6A Rio Rancho Cleveland 56-49 on Friday night.