Prep Notes: Peña excited to take over as coach at Belen - Albuquerque Journal

Prep Notes: Peña excited to take over as coach at Belen

Kevin Pena, Belen football coach

If there was any one man most likely to reverse the lack of stability atop the Belen High School football program, it was Kevin Peña.

He is a 1983 Belen High graduate and a former quarterback for the Eagles. His children have been athletes at Belen. And he has been coaching football for the Eagles for the past 23 years.

But this next season will be his first as Belen’s head coach as the 57-year-old last week was tabbed to lead the Eagles.

“I think that’s probably the biggest part for me. I’m from here,” Peña said. “Been here all my life. The stability means a lot.”

Peña is the fifth head coach for Belen football since 2019. Greg Henington was with the Eagles, but left in the spring of 2019 to become Eldorado’s offensive coordinator. Ty House coached the program for the 2019 season and the shortened 2020 season, which actually was contested in the spring of 2021. Then he left.

Former Rio Rancho High coach Phil Lopez was hired to take over, but abruptly departed after a few weeks; without coaching a game. Andrew McCraw came in from Eastern New Mexico and led the Eagles last fall. But McCraw recently resigned to become the head coach at Clovis.

“For me, it’s about the community of Belen. I love this community,” Peña said. “I want to give something back to the community, and have someone who has their (the players’) backs.”

The offseason program has been overseen by a handful of coaches, Peña said. The first official day of practices for the 2022 season is Monday, Aug. 1.

BEST DIRECTOR: La Cueva and Albuquerque Academy were among the five schools that won New Mexico Activities Association Director’s Cup titles for 2021-22.

The Bears scored 2,860 points in Class 5A, with Rio Rancho (2,020) and Cleveland (1,800) next on the list. It is the first time atop the standings for La Cueva since 2017-18.

In 4A, Academy’s 3,080 points outdistanced Los Alamos (2,460) and Lovington (1,660). Academy is the first-place school for the fourth straight school year.

Other classification winners were St. Michael’s in 3A, Pecos in 2A and Gateway Christian from Roswell in 1A. Gateway ended a five-year run by Melrose in 1A.

Points in the Director’s Cup are assigned in both athletics and activities. On the sports side, schools earn points on an escalating scale for participating in a program, winning district, reaching at least the state semifinals, being a state runner-up and capturing a state championship. Points are assigned in activities in most of those same categories.

CHANGE OF SCENERY: The Valley High softball team, indirectly, had one of the biggest impacts on Gallup winning the Class 4A state championship in May.

The man who has been coaching the Vikings the last 16 years, Oscar Medrano, has a new home.

Cibola last week hired Medrano to take over its program from Gene Victor, who retired earlier this year. He had coached the Cougars for 37 seasons and led them to three state titles.

Medrano, 65, actually coached at Cibola with Victor for a couple of seasons before he left to take over at Valley. The Vikings posted a huge upset of No. 1 Artesia early in this year’s state tournament.

“There comes a time where you feel like you need a change, a little bit of a challenge,” Medrano said. “I’ve always been one to challenge myself.”

He is leaving the 4A Vikings and entering what is unquestionably the most competitive district (1-5A), top to bottom, in the state.

“Being at Cibola will give me more of an opportunity to build a new program and bring it back to where it’s been before,” he said.

NOT EXACTLY OFFICIAL, BUT STILL … : MaxPreps.com last week ranked the country’s top 25 high school baseball cities.

Albuquerque came in at No. 11. The list is topped by San Diego, Miami, Tampa, Chicago and San Antonio.

MaxPreps also gave a rundown of the top individual baseball schools in the city. The top five were La Cueva, Sandia, St. Pius, Albuquerque Academy and Rio Grande.

According to a story that accompanied the list, the site used the 2022 MaxPreps computer ratings. The top 10 teams from each major city was compiled and the sum of the ratings for those 10 schools was applied.

As the site said it was not factoring in teams from a city’s suburbs, that explains why strong baseball programs like Rio Rancho and Cleveland are not mentioned.

THIS AND THAT: Sandia Prep athletic director Willie Owens is the 2022 New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor Inductee and Ralph Bowyer Coaching for Character Award recipient. … Cleveland High running back Lucious Dickson has committed to the reigning NJCAA national champion, New Mexico Military Institute. … Jaden Isler on Twitter last week announced that he was stepping down as the head boys basketball coach at Clovis High School.  It was not immediately known what his next move will be. … Volcano Vista big man Kenyon Aguino has received a basketball offer from Eastern New Mexico, as has Cibola High tight end Brayden Mummert and West Mesa defensive back/receiver Zebadiah Thompson. … La Cueva guard Eva Love has a third Division I offer, from UTEP. … Albuquerque High football player Jabulani Cooper has added Western N.M. to his list of offers that also includes Eastern N.M. and New Mexico Highlands.

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