2 New Mexico high schools receive NMAA strike

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A bench-clearing brawl is seriously costing two metro high school football teams. They’re the first two in the state to get a strike under the new NMAA “two-strikes” rule

It started as any other Friday night under the lights for the Valley Vikings and Belen Eagles. However, it got more than rowdy at Milne Stadium with about five minutes left in the game when a brawl broke out between both teams. 

“The play before the fight broke out had been a punt return, there were two blocks by the Valley team against Belen players that were flagged for, I’m going to call it being unsportsmanlike, they were blindside blocks,” said Lawrence Sanchez, superintendent of Belen Consolidated Schools. 

Sanchez says from where he was standing, Valley ran one more play before things got out of hand. 

“We haven’t looked at the film yet to see if our kids did anything wrong, it is possible that they may have tackled a little more vigorously once the play went out of bounds, which again we shouldn’t be doing. I think both sides were upset with each other and that led to pushing and shoving,” Sanchez said.

Belen players rushed from their sideline to Valley’s, where the fight started. 

The brawl landed both teams with their first strike under the new NMAA sportsmanship rules. If a team gets two strikes for egregious behavior, the rest of their season is canceled. 

“Being there firsthand it is the right decision to make, so now it is ‘How we can get better, how we can make sure this doesn’t happen again?’ It is eye-opening for all of our athletes because we see that the NMAA means business, and we support that,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez says Belen’s head coach did not allow their players to participate in the post game handshake and immediately exited the field. In addition to the strike, both teams will have to forfeit their next scheduled game.

“We support this initiative by the NMAA to take this nonsense out of the game, and we will do our part to make sure we won’t get strike two,” said Sanchez. 

KOB 4 reached out to Albuquerque Public School District officials for Valley High School’s perspective.

An APS spokesperson sent KOB 4 the following statement, saying in part:

“I’m disappointed in what happened during the Valley and Belen game on Friday. The conduct displayed was an embarrassment, and it cannot be tolerated. The New Mexico Activities Association was clear about the consequences of engaging in this type of behavior, and I hope the penalty imposed sends a clear message that poor sportsmanship has no place in high school athletics.”

Another statement was sent to KOB 4 from Sally Marquez, the executive director of the NMAA. It says in part:  

“We reviewed the incident and, unfortunately, this is why the two strikes bylaw is in place.  

The NMAA and its member schools are not going to tolerate any egregious unsportsmanlike conduct by either the teams or the fans.  we all need to raise the bar and bench this kind of bad behavior.”