The Los Lunas Tigers rallied past Goddard to win 26-21 in the 5A State Semifinal Game at Willie Chavez Field this afternoon, Saturday, Nov. 20.
Fabian Trujillo caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Paul Cieremans with two minutes left to play to give the Tigers a 26-21 lead.
From there the LLHS defense stiffened, stopping Goddard short of a first down on fourth down to preserve the win.
“We knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Los Lunas head coach Greg Henington said after the game. “We could’ve folded at one point, but the guys decided not to and that says more about this team than anything.”
Early on, it appeared as though Goddard would run away with the game.
The Rockets forced the Tigers to punt on Los Lunas’ first drive and took over at their own 45-yard line.
On the next play, Goddard running back Jon Silva took a handoff and cruised through the Tiger defense for a 55-yard touchdown run to put the Rockets up 7-0 early.
After the two teams traded fumbles, the Rockets struck again. This time it was a 35-yard touchdown pass from Goddard quarterback Adrian Vega to Elijah Romero to make it 14-0 in favor of Goddard.
Los Lunas was able to get back in the game with an 11-play drive that ended with Keven Munoz taking a 1-yard run into the endzone to cut the Goddard lead to 14-7.
After the two traded punts, Goddard scored again, this time on a 31-yard touchdown run by Silva. That made it 21-7 Goddard as halftime hit.
In the second half, the Tigers opened strong.
First, LLHS forced a turnover on downs from Goddard. Then Cieremans put the offense on his back and carried it all 55 yards on the Tigers next drive, including a 9-yard touchdown run that cut the Rockets lead to 21-14.
The score stayed 21-14 until the fourth quarter, when the Tigers took over.
The LLHS defense would again stop Goddard on fourth down to turn over the Rockets on downs at the Los Lunas 45-yard line.
Then Cieremans would once again do the work. Cieremans would take a first down run to the Goddard 45 and then a personal foul penalty on Goddard during the play pushed the ball to the 30-yard line.
Three plays later Cieremans would take it in himself from four yards out to cut Goddard’s lead to 21-20.
Los Lunas would go for two after the Cieremans score but would miss it and it was still 21-20 Goddard, with seven minutes to go.
After Los Lunas forced a Goddard punt, the Tigers would take over at their own 38-yard line.
This time it would take LLHS seven plays for the Tigers to score the aforementioned Trujillo touchdown catch to give Los Lunas a 26-21 lead.
Goddard would take over at their own 20-yard line following a touchback on the Los Lunas kickoff.
Los Lunas would then tackle Silva on fourth down, three yards shy of a first down.
From there, Cieremans would pick up a first down on the ensuing Los Lunas drive to help run out the clock to give the Tigers a thrilling victory.
The win advances Los Lunas to the State 5A Championship Game against Artesia.
That contest will be played at 1 p.m., next Saturday, Nov. 27, in Los Lunas.
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.