The Los Lunas Tigers football team is the 5A State Champion following a 40-28 win over the Artesia Bulldogs in Los Lunas on Saturday.
Paul Cieremans ran for three touchdowns and passed for one, while Karlos Cieremans added two rushing touchdowns of his own as the Tigers won their first state championship in football.
“Couldn’t be any more proud of them,” Los Lunas head coach Greg Henington said after the game. “It feels amazing.”
Karlos Cieremans opened the scoring with a three-yard touchdown run that was setup by a 35-yard run by Paul Cieremans.
A botched snap prevented the Tigers from kicking an extra point, so it stayed 6-0 less than two minutes into the contest.
Later in the first quarter, Karlos Cieremans punched it in again, this time from six yards out.
This time Kaden Bell was able to kick the extra point through the uprights to give Los Lunas a 13-0 lead with 2:20 to go in the first quarter.
On the ensuing Artesia drive the Bulldogs needed just one play to get back into the game.
Bulldog receiver Zaden Lopez caught a tunnel screen from quarterback Nate Taylor and took it 66 yards up the sideline for a touchdown that closed the gap to 13-7.
After recovering an Artesia onside kick attempt, it took six plays and a little more than a minute for Los Lunas to find the endzone again.
On a second down and 15 from their own 40-yard line, Paul Cieremans hooked up with Emilio Mora III for a touchdown that gave Los Lunas a 20-7 lead following Bell’s extra point.
The two squads would trade punts in the second quarter as neither could get on the board in the second twelve minutes of play, and the game went to halftime with Los Lunas up 20-7.
The contest got more interesting in the third quarter.
After forcing a Los Lunas punt, Artesia closed the gap once again.
This time it was Taylor finding receiver Peyton Greathouse from 14 yards out for a touchdown that cut the Los Lunas lead to 20-14 with 5:21 remaining in the third quarter.
On the next Los Lunas drive, it was Paul Cieremans once again finding pay dirt, this time with his legs.
On a first and 10 at the Artesia 29, Cieremans kept it himself on a quarterback keeper and broke several Bulldog tackles to reach the endzone.
A failed two-point conversion made it 26-14 Tigers. That would be the score at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Artesia closed once again, and once again it was thanks to their passing game.
A long, 17-play drive for Artesia, was capped off by Taylor finding Kody Watson from 10 yards out to cut the deficit to 26-21 with just over nine minutes to play.
After the two teams traded fumbles, the Tigers would score once again.
This time it was Paul Cieremans using his legs once again, this one from five yards out. The Tigers would add a two-point conversion to take a 34-21 lead with five minutes to go.
Artesia, though, still wouldn’t go away as it took just 26 seconds for the Bulldogs to find the endzone and close again.
On the score, Taylor would find Zaden Lopez again, this time from 30 yards out. That touchdown closed the gap to 34-28 with 4:38 to play.
After a Los Lunas punt, Artesia had 2:50 to go to try and drive for the game winning score.
Their hopes came up short, as Phillip Finley was stopped short on fourth and four at the Los Lunas 41-yard line and just more than a minute left to play.
On the next Los Lunas play, Paul Cieremans would keep it himself and much to the delight of the home crowd, he found daylight and outran the Bulldog defense for the touchdown to seal the win.
Artesia would throw an interception on their next drive and two Cieremans kneel-downs later, Los Lunas was 5A State Champions.
Adam Evarts is a graduate of the University of New Mexico where he studied journalism and history. He has lived in Valencia County most of his life. Adam covers sports for the Valencia County News-Bulletin, including prep competitions for the three local high schools, Senior Olympics, rodeo, Little League and more.