Confrontation video raises questions about high school sports policy

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Some in the New Mexico high school football community still have questions about the consequences from a recent Albuquerque metro high school football game. 

Video shows the moments when Belen and Valley high schools had a confrontation on Sept. 8 – moments that have sparked backlash. 

Both schools got a strike from the New Mexico Activities Association under its two strike rule, which is a new sportsmanship rule this school year. Now, if either team gets another strike, their season is over. 

Valley High School fans feel like Belen started it all. One person commented on KOB 4’s Facebook post saying, “The film clearly shows Belen rushing our side!!!!!” 

Belen officials feel like Valley is at fault. They’re upset over unsportsmanlike plays shortly before the incident. 

“They were blindside blocks,” Superintendent Lawrence Sanchez told KOB 4 earlier this month. 

The NMAA denied Belen’s appeal of the strike Wednesday and KOB 4 spoke again with Sanchez. 

He points out that, in the video, the incident does not look like a brawl. 

“I saw pushes. I saw chesting. I didn’t see punches or that type of thing thrown,” he said. 

He said NMAA officials told him the teams coming together is what makes this “egregious behavior” under the rule. 

Sanchez said he does appreciate having the chance to express concerns about the punishment. 

“I think we have a better understanding of the process,” he said. “I think it was a very positive meeting with the Board of Directors and Director (Sally) Marquez.” 

He hopes his Belen Eagles can have better judgment moving forward. 

“We can learn from this, and we don’t want that,” Sanchez said. 

Belen had to forfeit its next game. Sanchez said that is because some of their players crossed into the opponent’s sideline during that incident, which is a violation of the rules of the national federation for high school sports. 

KOB 4 also received video of another confrontation between New Mexico high school football teams. 

That same night, Sept. 8, Raton and Tucumcari clashed. It included multiple players on both teams. The NMAA did not give out any strikes for that. 

On Wednesday, KOB 4 reached out to the NMAA to ask why the incident between Belen and Valley would rise to the level of a strike, but the clash between Tucumcari and Raton did not, and what video sports officials are seeing to support those decisions.

KOB 4 did not get responses Wednesday.