The Chile Roaster trophy will remain in the halls of Los Lunas High School after the Tigers dominated the 74th annual Valencia Bowl with a 45-0 victory over the Belen Eagles Friday night in Belen.

The Tigers used a stifling defense and steady ground game to rack up their seventh straight victory in the series. But the Eagles made things difficult at the start for the defending 5A champions who moved up a class this year and were playing their first game as a 6A school.

Los Lunas was hampered by the fired-up Belen defense as well as a string of penalties on both sides of the ball in the first half. However, the Tigers opened the scoring with just over three minutes left in the first quarter when quarterback Paul Cieremans carried a couple of defenders into the end zone from short yardage. Kaden Bell added the extra point to make the score 7-0.

Mike Powers/News-Bulletin photo
Team captains for the Los Lunas Tigers and Belen Eagles meet at mid field for the coin toss that will determine who kicks off for the 74th annual Valencia Bowl.

On the next drive, the Eagles moved the ball down the field, with a Hunter Garcia pass to Jesse Vazquez gaining 40 yards and putting Belen in business inside the 30-yard line. But as the teams switched ends for the second quarter, Tigers cornerback Dominic Trujillo outjumped the Eagles receiver just inside the end zone for the first of his two interceptions on the night.

Los Lunas was able to overcome numerous penalties on the following drive, ending with a 42 yard touchdown toss from Cieremans to Ethan Baca, the first of two scoring strikes between the two. That put the Tigers up 14-0 with 7:07 left in the second quarter.

The scoring in the first half ended when Bell booted a straight down the middle field goal from 35 yards out and Los Lunas held a comfortable 17-0 lead at the midway point.

The second half started with the Eagles receiving the ball, but the size and depth of the Tigers began to show. Nicholas Torres pounced on a Belen fumble, one of four Eagle turnovers, giving the Tigers a short field to work with. On third and ten, Cieremans ran up the middle for 27 yards, hauling several Eagles along the way. That set up a Cieremans three-yard scamper to put Los Lunas ahead 24-0.

The offensive and defensive lines of Los Lunas took over the game in the second half. A string of Tiger running backs took turns carrying the ball including Cash Aragon, Chris Loera, Dustin Lujan and Jordan Howard. Aragon and Lujan each contributed second half touchdowns in the45-0 victory.

Los Lunas coach Greg Henington was impressed with the tenacity of the Eagles.

“I’ve got to give Belen credit. They played very, very tough. Physical,” Henington said.

He also gave credit to his offensive line after the first series.

“They realized what they needed to do and they took over that game. It was good to run the ball the way we did,” Henington added.

First year Eagles coach Kevin Peña felt his squad could have performed better.

“I don’t think we played to our potential, but that’s OK,” Peña said, calling Los Lunas “…one of the best teams in the state. They’re 6A. They should have done that to us.”

Belen has a quick turnaround ahead. The Eagles play Thursday at Wilson Stadium against Manzano.

On Friday, Los Lunas goes on the road to play Alamogordo, which opened the season with a 41-0 victory against Valencia.

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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.