Los Lunas—The Los Lunas Tigers will move on to the next round of the state football playoffs, facing Goddard in the semifinals.
At the beginning of the quarterfinal game against the Belen Eagles on Saturday, LLHS cornerback Darryn Romero returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and quarterback Paul Cieremans ran for a touchdown in the first quarter and threw for another to help propel Los Lunas to a 31-0 win over the Eagles.
Belen opened the game by kicking off to Los Lunas. Romero took the kick and ran 90-yards for the opening score of the contest.
The Tiger’s defense then forced Belen to punt on the Eagles first drive of the game. After that, it didn’t take long for the Tigers to find the endzone once again.
On Los Lunas’ next drive, the offense went 56-yards on eight plays, capped off by Cieremans running the ball in from six yards out to make the score 14-0 in favor of Los Lunas.
Following another Belen punt, Los Lunas took over at their own 46-yard line and it only took one play for the Tigers to find the endzone once again. This time, Cieremans used his arm to find running back Fabian Trujillo, streaking down the right sidelines for a 54-yard touchdown pass that put Los Lunas up 21-0 with two minutes to go in the first quarter.
Belen running back Diego Avila started the drive off the next Eagle possession with an 11-yard run. It appeared as though the Eagle’s offense was finally going to get going. That was short-lived, however, as Belen was called for two costly penalties during the drive.
The first was an illegal substitution. Two plays after that, the Eagles were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that derailed the once-promising drive.
After the two schools traded punts, the Tigers got the ball back late in the second quarter and once again marched deep into Belen territory.
Ten plays into a drive that began at their own 11-yard line, the Tigers were at the Belen 2-yard line before a shotgun snap sailed over the head of Cieremans, who was able to recover the ball back at the 21-yard line.
Following a pass to the 11-yard line, LLHS kicker Kaden Bell added a 28-yard field goal to make it 24-0 in favor of Los Lunas at halftime.
Belen began the second half with the ball and was able to convert a fourth down from their 26-yard line.
Later on in the drive, Belen was able to get to the Los Lunas 24, before the Tiger’s defense came up with some huge plays.
Los Lunas stopped Avila three yards behind the line of scrimmage. Then a sack by the Tigers pushed the Eagles back to the 36-yard line. On the next play, Belen fumbled the ball and the Tigers recovered to end the Eagle threat.
After the fumble recovery, the Tigers put together a nine-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in LLHS running back Cash Aragon making a 4-yard touchdown run. That touchdown put Los Lunas up 31-0 with two minutes to go in the third quarter.
Following a Belen punt and a Los Lunas turnover on downs, the Belen offense moved to the Los Lunas 11-yard line. The Eagles, though, were unable to move any closer.
Following an incomplete pass on fourth down, the Eagles turned it back over to the Tigers, who ran out the final four minutes of play to end the contest.
“They showed a lot of heart and a lot of passion,” said Los Lunas head coach Greg Henington about his team following the game. “That is what we build this program around. Defense has been a nightmare for every team this season, so it was good to see ours come up with some stops and turnovers.”
“We just didn’t execute as well as we needed to today,” Belen head coach Andrew McCraw said following the game. “We played really, really hard today and that’s all I’ve ever asked of them. I am really proud of our team this season.”
With the victory, the Los Lunas Tigers move on to the semifinals of the Class 5A state playoffs, facing off with the Goddard Rockets on Saturday.
That contest will take place at 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 20, at Willie Chavez Field. It is a rematch of a contest from earlier in the season in which Los Lunas won 17-14 on Sept. 24.
On Friday night in Bloomfield, the host Bobcats handled the Valencia Jaguars by a final of 48-13. The loss ends the Jaguars’ season.
Early on, Jaguars quarterback Rey Garcia fumbled, and returned it for a touchdown to give Bloomfield a 7-0 lead.
Bloomfield struck again a few minutes later with a touchdown run that made it 14-0 just six minutes into the game.
It took less than two minutes before Bloomfield found the endzone again, this one on a 33-yard touchdown pass giving the Bobcats a 21-0 lead less than eight minutes into the contest.
Valencia fought back to within 21-13, following two Garcia touchdown passes. That would be as close as the Jaguars would get.
From there, Bloomfield reeled off 27 unanswered points to come away with the 48-13 victory, eliminating Valencia from the 4A playoffs.
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.