Los Lunas — 476 days. That’s how long it had been since the Los Lunas Tigers last stepped foot on a football field for a game before the team’s Saturday season-opener against the La Cueva Bears.
Behind sophomore quarterback Paul Cieremans — who threw for one touchdown and rushed for two more — Los Lunas defeated the Bears 31-20 on its home turf, winning a game against arguably its toughest opponent in the team’s shortened season.
“It feels great,” Los Lunas head coach Jeremy Maupin said.
“We set the field up this morning around eight o’clock and I was like, man, it’s great to be back out here. … I’m excited for our kids and I thought they played well.”
Throughout four quarters against a top team in 6A, the Tigers led the entire way.
Most notably, the Tigers’ defense stifled any run attempts from La Cueva quarterback Aiden Nair and running back Gabriel Buie.
Aside from a second-quarter spurt in which La Cueva wide receiver Brad Thomas received a 43-yard pass to put his team in scoring position — and later on in that drive, a 14-yard touchdown reception — the Bears struggled to get its passing game going.
The Tigers’ struck first on a Cieremans 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joel Hernandez.
The score put Los Lunas up 6-0 seven minutes into the game.
The Tigers scored again when defensive back Darryn Romero recovered a fumble to set the Tigers up in the redzone.
A field goal from LLHS kicker Kaden Bell put them up 9-0 early in the second quarter.
The Tigers kept their pace in the second half, too. After driving the ball up the field, Cieremans found Hernandez again for 14-yards to put his team a yard shy of the endzone.
That’s when Cieremans barreled his way into the endzone on a quarterback keeper, giving Los Lunas its second touchdown of the game.
The Tigers went for two on the extra point, and ran a quarterback keeper again with Cieremans, giving the Tigers a 17-7 lead.
Afer La Cueva followed up with a touchdown on its next drive, a designed quarterback run from Cieremans — a run of 85 yards, the longest of the game — gave the Tigers a touchdown late in the third quarter.
Los Lunas put the final nail in the coffin when Eric Aragon scooped up a fumble from Nair that resulted in a touchdown, putting the Tigers up 31-14.
La Cueva had its chances towards the end and was able to score on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Nair to Thomas with less than six minutes left in the game, but the Tigers held strong defensively stifling the La Cueva offense.
“I was really excited about the physicality,” Maupin said.
“That’s a good football team we just played. They have big receivers and strong receivers.
“I think one of the better receivers in the state, in Brad Thomas. So to see our guys come out and just compete was exciting.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Tigers currently have no opponent for this weekend, so the next game on the schedule for LLHS is at Belen on Saturday, April 3.