Proud family, friends and fans praise team for its persistence

LOS LUNAS—It was a raucous crowd of more than 3,000 in Los Lunas that greeted the Roswell Coyotes as they took the field Saturday afternoon at the District 5A high school state football championship game.

Juliette Romero Benavidez, the Los Lunas Schools assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and accountability, and mother of senior Kade Benavidez, cheers the Tigers on during their game for the 5A state championship Saturday afternoon. Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photos

The boos from the hometown crowd carried across the field on a cold breeze to the visitors — a sign of the next three hours.

As the Los Lunas Tigers fought and scratched for every inch on the gridiron, the crowd let their ire and dissatisfaction with the officiating be let known.

The expected cries of “Come on, ref! Are you blind?” rang out, as well as many suggestions as to what the right call was. On one occasion, the much debated “OK Boomer” was deployed after what was deemed a wrong call against the Tigers.

The Los Lunas High Tigers take the field and await the coin toss before the kickoff of Saturday’s 5A state championship game against the Roswell Coyotes.

The crowd that day was comprised of people from all around the county and even some neighboring communities. A few spectators wore the Belen High School Eagles maroon and white, and there was at least one Bernalillo County firefighter in the stands.

As the Willie Chavez Field cleared and the Roswell Coyotes gathered at center field to claim their second straight 5A state championship, there was still sharp words for the referees, but only praise for the Tigers.

More than 3,000 fans packed the Los Lunas High School football stadium Saturday afternoon to cheer on the Tigers as they tangled with the Roswell Coyotes for the 5A state championship. Among them were friends and family of LLHS junior player Christian Griego. The Tigers fought tooth and nail, but lost the game, 25-19.

A Bosque Farms resident by way of Clovis, James Martinez, said from what he saw of the second half, it was a fairly matched game between the two teams.

“They both played great. It came down to the end and they gave it everything they had,” Martinez said, who came out to support a friend’s son on the team. “It was anybody’s game. The Coyotes had to earn it.”

Martin A. Olivas, a Los Lunas native living in Belen, called the game a “hard-fought battle. It was a good game.”

Los Lunas High School Tiger Tyler Kiehne, a junior, takes a moment to himself after Saturday’s 5A state championship game against the Roswell Coyotes. The Tigers missed the blue trophy, 25-19.

Friends and family with him agreed the Tigers gave a strong performance and shouldn’t feel any shame.

A long-time Tiger supporter and Los Lunas High School graduate, Frank Gurule, said the team fought with spirit.

“A few early mistakes in the game came back to haunt us. As a former Los Lunas Tiger, I am very proud of the effort the team made this whole year,” Gurule said. “This is the beginning of a strong tradition of football at Los Lunas High School. The fans turned out, there was tremendous support. These boys should be proud of what they did.”

It was a cold, blustery day at the Los Lunas High School football stadium as the Tigers played for the state championship Saturday afternoon. The Tigerettes, LLHS cheer team, dance team and marching band lined the sidelines to pump up the capacity crowd.

The Twitter account Los Lunas Tigers, which bills itself as “Tiger News & Sports Scores since 2012 … not officially affiliated with LLHS,” estimated attendance numbers for the game were around 3,200, going beyond the stadium’s seating capacity of 3,000.

The account noted the No. 1 most watched game at the Tiger football stadium was the 2012 state championship game against Goddard, which drew about 4,250 spectators.

For the second year in a row, Los Lunas finished as the state runner-up, ending the year with a 10-3 record. Saturday’s game was a rematch of the 5A title game last year, which also ended with a Tiger loss.

Fans were riveted at the end of Saturday’s championship game between the Los Lunas Tigers and Roswell Coyotes when the Tigers set up a chance to tie the game with only 19 seconds on the clock. The play didn’t pay off, with Roswell intercepting the final pass, clinching the game 25-19.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.