BELEN — A punishing ground game carried Los Lunas to a dominating 45-0 victory over Belen Friday in the 74th annual Valencia Bowl.
This was the Tigers’ seventh straight win in the series.
The Tigers rushed for nearly 350 yards in their first game in Class 6A, shutting out the Eagles for the fourth time in their last five meetings.
The defending 5A champion Tigers opened the scoring late in the first quarter when quarterback Paul Cieremans carried several defenders into the end zone from three yards out.
Los Lunas head coach Greg Henington said it was about that time that his offensive line started to get into rhythm.
“After that second drive, they realized what they needed to do and took over that game,” Henington said.
On the ensuing drive, the Eagles’ offense had one of its best efforts of the night. A Hunter Garcia pass to Jesse Vazquez gained 40 yards and Belen was inside the 30-yard line. But several plays later, Tigers’ cornerback Dominic Trujillo out-jumped the Eagles’ receiver in the end zone for the first of his two interceptions.
“I was ready for it,” Trujillo said. “I knew exactly what he was going to do.”
Eagles’ head coach Kevin Peña said turnovers were a key.
“We had four and they had zero. We can’t turn the ball over, especially against a good team like that,” Peña said.
Both teams had trouble moving the ball through the air, but Cieremans connected with Ethan Baca on a 42-yard strike midway through the second quarter to put Los Lunas up 14-0.
Kaden Bell finished the first half with a 35-yard field goal, and it was 17-0 at the break.
When Nicholas Torres pounced on a Belen fumble early in the third quarter, the Tigers’ momentum continued to build. Cieremans finished off the short drive with a three-yard scamper to put Los Lunas ahead 24-0.
The size and depth of the offensive and defensive lines of Los Lunas continued to control the trenches.
A string of Tigers took turns carrying the ball with Cieremans and Cash Aragon rushing for more than 100 yards each. Cieremans had two touchdowns on the ground while Aragon and Dustin Lujan each had one. Michael Baca added a receiving score.
The 45-0 victory was the 14th straight for Los Lunas.
“I’ve got to give Belen credit, man,” Henington said. “They played very, very tough. Physical.”
Belen head coach Peña pointed to the skill of the Tigers and the size of their roster.
“When you got 22 guys who play on the field and we’ve got 13 guys, you better be better than us,” Peña said.
As Belen gets set to meet Manzano on Thursday at Wilson Stadium, Peña said, “I believe in my team. I have no doubt in my team at all.”
Los Lunas plays Friday at Alamogordo. LLHS coach Henington said a priority will be cleaning up the penalties.
Valencia High School
The Valencia Jaguars hosted Alamogordo Friday, losing to the 6A Tigers 41-0. Valencia head coach Wesley Shank said the Jaguars were worn down by the deeper Tigers and threw six interceptions in the first half, including two that were returned for touchdowns early in the game.
Shank said the offense did move the ball fairly well at times, registering 15 first downs. Shank added that the Jaguars were missing seven linemen for various reasons, and he “feels good if we get our guys back.”
The 4A Jaguars play on the road Saturday against Del Norte.
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.