After plenty of ups and downs, all three Valencia County high school football teams qualified for the state playoffs. Each will play on the road in opening round games.
Los Lunas High School
After capturing the 5A state title in 2021, the Los Lunas Tigers showed they can compete in 6A. The Tigers are a ninth seed, and will play No. 8 Cibola in a rematch from earlier in the season. The kickoff is 1 p.m. Saturday at Community Stadium in Albuquerque.
“We are super excited,” is how head coach Greg Henington described the showdown against 6-4 Cibola, which has lost four straight games.
The Cougars beat the Tigers in September — 36-30 — taking advantage of several beneficial close calls.
“That has a lot to do with it,” Henington said about the anticipation, adding, “We could have played much better. The game got away from us.”
Los Lunas made a statement in the final regular season contest Friday against Clovis, dismantling the Wildcats 54-0 to win the district title on Senior Night. The contest ended early because of the 50-point mercy rule.
“Wow. We’ve been waiting for that explosion for a while,” Henington said after the game.
On the first play from scrimmage, the Tigers scored on a 48-yard Niko Torrez run. After a successful on-side kick, quarterback Paul Cieremans ran it in and was followed by a Cash Aragon touchdown. Four minutes into the game, Los Lunas lead 21-0.
Before the end of the half, the Tigers scored four more touchdowns and would have ended the game if a two-point conversion try was successful. It was 48-0 at the half.
The game was stopped early in the third quarter when Chris Loera scored.
“We were prepping for the state playoffs,” Cieremans said. “We knew we had to take care of business and we took care of business.”
Clovis ends the season with a 3-7 record. Los Lunas was 4-0 in district play and takes a 6-4 record into the playoffs.
Belen High School
The regular season closed on a disappointing note, but the Belen Eagles return to the 5A playoffs as the 12th seed. BHS goes on the road Friday to play No. 5 Deming in a rematch from earlier in the season. Game time is at 7 p.m.
Despite a record of only 2-8 after falling Friday at Piedra Vista 50-0, first year head coach Kevin Peña wasn’t surprised the Eagles were selected.
“I’m excited. We beat the teams we were supposed to beat,” to get in, Peña said.
The Eagles lost to Deming 56-22 in September. Peña remembers the Wildcats as “very big with some speed.”
The Eagles were not at full strength at the time, but injuries could be a problem again. Quarterback Hunter Garcia and running back Diego Avila missed the Piedra Vista game and coach Peña says he’s not counting on them for the Deming trip. The Wildcats are 6-4.
“I always tell our players you get a second chance.” Peña said. “This is our second chance. It’s one shot now. It was our objective at the start of the season to make the playoffs. We just need to play our hardest.”
Valencia High School
After giving top ranked and No. 1 seed Silver a battle to end the regular season, the Valencia Jaguars head to the 4A playoffs as the ninth seed, and will play a 6 p.m. road game Friday at No. 8 Aztec.
“I like our chances,” VHS head coach Wesley Shank said. “We can compete with anyone if we cleanup our mistakes.”
By mid-Sunday morning, Shank had watched tape of five Aztec games.
“They are pretty good — fast and quick,” was Shank’s reaction.
He added the Aztec Tigers are like Valencia in several ways, including that they “shoot themselves in the foot.”
“This is a chance to redeem ourselves — we have underachieved,” is how Shank described the season so far.
He believes if the Jaguars put four solid quarters together, they can pull off the victory.
The Jaguars offense struggled again Friday at home against Silver in the 13-0 setback. Shank said the defense played “really well,” but penalties, fumbles and a struggling passing game were costly.
The Colts finished the regular season 9-1 and take the top seed into the post season.
Mike Powers spent more than 40 years as a television news and sports anchor, mostly in the Albuquerque market. He has won numerous awards including New Mexico Sportscaster of the Year. He covers a wide range of sports, including the Valencia County prep scene.