The effort to reach the top of 6A football in New Mexico might be compared to playing “King of the Hill” as a child. As you climb near the top, one of the bigger kids tosses you tumbling back down.
La Cueva, one of the “bigger kids,” demonstrated to Los Lunas (3-2) on Friday at Wilson Stadium why they are again an elite team in 6A, rolling past the Tigers 45-6.
Despite a nearly hour long lightning delay before kickoff, the Bears (2-3) quickly showed off their size, speed and elite talent, while announcing their poor record, which included a forfeit loss, was misleading.
Los Lunas, just two years removed from a 5A championship, was unable to move the Bears’ front-seven defense off the ball, posting only 102 yards of total offense.
La Cueva quarterback Cam Dyer used his passing and running skills to lead two scoring drives to put the Tigers in a 14-0 first quarter hole.
LLHS defensive back Fabian Trujillo ended the next La Cueva drive with an interception in the end zone. But Los Lunas quarterbacks tossed three interceptions, one of them returned for a touchdown by Landon Green. It was 28-0 at the half.
The second half couldn’t have started worse for Los Lunas, when Bears’ Tanner Montano returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
After another La Cueva score, it pushed the lead to 42-0, LLHS got on the board on the ensuing kickoff. On a misdirection “Statue of Liberty” trick play, Dominic Trujillo ended up with the ball, found a seam, and raced to the endzone.
“A gap just opened up, and I found it and took it for six,” Trujillo said. “It was wide open.”
“We just have to concentrate on ourselves,” said Los Lunas coach Greg Henington.
Aside from a 38-yard scamper by quarterback Kaiden Reese, the Tigers’ bread and butter running game was shutdown.
“It’s a tough defense — it’s tough to run on them. Yeah, that hurt us,” Henington agreed.
Los Lunas returns home Friday to face Valley. The Vikings originally were to forfeit that game as punishment for a skirmish during its Sept. 8 contest against Belen, but the New Mexico Activities Association later rescinded their ruling.
“We just want to get back on the field and move in the right direction,” Henington said. “We’re excited to play.”
The long trip to southern New Mexico was worth it Thursday for the Valencia Jaguars (3-1), who dominated all facets of the game to beat 5A Santa Teresa 51-13.
The 4A Jaguars’ opened the scoring with a safety, but Santa Teresa (0-4) soon answered with a touchdown, the only lead of the game for the Desert Warriors. “We were missing a lot of tackles in the first half,” coach LeDarrius Cage said, as the Jags managed a 23-13 lead at the break.
“We cleaned that up and started pursuing eleven hats (helmets) to the football, and that’s what it took.”
The defense posted a shutout over the final 24 minutes. Leading the way was linebacker Isaiah Rodriguez, who had 12 tackles and an interception, while contributing 69 yards rushing.
The VHS offense started to feed off the defense. Quarterback Aiden Harrington accounted for five touchdowns total, three rushing on just four carries and two through the air. Daniel Villegas rushed for 172 yards and two scores, including a 61-yard scamper.
The victory sets VHS up for a showdown at home Friday against unbeaten Bloomfield (4-0), the third ranked team in 4A.
Cage knows the Jaguars can’t stumble out of the gate.
“Our emphasis is to start fast and try to get some momentum going early,” the coach said.
After Belen (0-5) was ordered by the NMAA to forfeit the Sept. 15 game at Deming, the Eagles turned their focus to Friday’s homecoming game against 5A rival Las Cruces Mayfield, which brings a 2-2 record into Eagles Stadium.
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.