It’s been 49 years since fullback Leo Apodaca scored the first Los Lunas touchdown in the Tigers first game ever against Belen.
Apodaca, now 66, recalls that it was not hot on that day, Sept. 25, 1953, at the Eagles’ home field before a crowd of about 1,000. The Tigers went into the final quarter trailing Belen 12-0, the same score at halftime after Eagle fullback Nestor Birner scored from four yards out.
Los Lunas coach Beltrin Sedillo had his team running out of the I-formation that season, and Apodaca found himself going out for a short pass early in the fourth quarter.
“They called it a fullback pass at the time,” Apodoca said in an interview at his Peralta home last week. “I went just a little bit to the flat. It was like a delayed pass.”
Apodaca pulled in the short throw from quarterback Fidel Aragon, and it was off to the races.
“I just kept running and ran for my life,” Apodaca said.
The play covered 70 yards and pulled Los Lunas to just six points behind, 12-6. After scoring, Apodaca was called on to kick the extra point.
“I asked the coach if I could have a time out to catch my breath,” Apodaca said of the play in which he raced almost the length of the field.
“What’s the matter?” Sedillo asked. “You’re supposed to be in condition.”
Sedillo relented and used a time out for Apodaca to get a breather. Apparently it helped because the 139-pound fullback/kicker booted the extra point to make the score 12-7.
Apodaca’s touchdown would be the only Tiger score of the game, as Belen’s Birner scored again to give the Eagles a 19-7 victory in the first meeting between the two schools.
“We were playing Belen for the first time ever,” Apodaca said of the game. “For some reason, they wouldn’t let us play Belen until we had three years under our belts.”
According to Apodaca, those playing days were a lot different from today.
“Coach Sedillo was pretty rough on us at the time,” Apodaca said. “He used to put us through two hours of practice without water. That’s the way it was back then.”
Apodaca, a retired gas-usage estimator for PNM Electric and Gas Company, and his wife, Rosemarie, had three girls and no boys to carry on the Tiger football tradition. However, the Apodacas have five grandsons, and one of them, Eric Silva, did play football for Los Lunas. Another grandson, Aaron Atencio, 13, currently plays in the Youth Football League (YFL) in Albuquerque.
Apodaca’s still experiencing some effects from a past heart attack. However, the former Tiger fullback has only missed about five games in the series against Belen. He already has his ticket to be in the stands on Sept. 13.