LOS LUNAS — The Los Lunas Tigers turned to one of their unsung offensive weapons on Friday night.
Junior place-kicker Kaden Bell drilled a 32-yard field goal with 3:39 remaining, and the third-ranked Tigers (6-0) edged No. 2 Goddard 17-14 in a Class 5A showdown.
“He’s a stud,” Los Lunas junior quarterback Paul Cieremans said. “We respect that guy a lot. We put the game in his hands and he came through.”
Bell’s kick against the Rockets (4-1) was largely made possible by Cieremans himself.
On a third-and-9 from the Goddard 31, Cieremans took off on a run. He looked to be stopped around the 25, but kept his legs moving and ran through a tackle attempt to gain a first down at the 20.
Three plays later, Bell gave the Tigers the lead. Goddard didn’t threaten on its ensuing series, and Los Lunas ran out the clock.
The Tigers emerged from a tough three-week stretch against Roswell, Cibola and Goddard unscathed.
This represented the meat of the Los Lunas schedule as the Tigers will be heavily favored to roll through their district, 5/6-5A, without a blemish.
“All year, we’ve been looking at this stretch, to tell us exactly where we’re at,” Los Lunas coach Greg Henington said.
“We’re happy where we’re at, but by no means are we content. The challenge will be keeping it going.”
Los Lunas had the first score, a shuttle pass Devin Gallegos took 37 yards through the middle of the Goddard defense for a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Rockets were at the Los Lunas 10 near the end of the first half, and had a long fourth down from the 11.
Goddard coach Chris White eschewed the field-goal attempt, went for the fourth down, and it failed on an incomplete pass through the back of the end zone.
“We had a play I liked,” White said. “But we didn’t get it executed.”
The Tigers led 7-0 at halftime, but Goddard took the opening kickoff of the third quarter 80 yards in 11 plays.
However, the key moment was a roughing-the-passer penalty on the Tigers on third down that kept the drive going.
Later, QB Noah Reese scored from the 2 for a 7-all tie.
Los Lunas needed only three plays to reclaim the lead. Cieremans faked a handoff and scooted 43 yards up the middle for a go-ahead score just 96 seconds after Goddard’s TD.
The Tigers were looking for a two-score lead in the fourth quarter when Cieremans was intercepted.
The Rockets ended up at the Los Lunas 31, and needed only three plays to tie the game at 14 when Hector Salvarrey scored on a 2-yard run.
The Tigers went ahead on the next drive.
Goddard was without its star running back, Javyn Morales, who was injured last week in a win over Hobbs.
The Rockets had already lost their starting quarterback, Adrian Vega, in the season opener.
White said he hopes both will return in the second half of the season. Goddard is off next week, then faces Mayfield, before diving into district.
“It’s kind of been uphill for us all year as far as the schedule,” White said.
“It’ll have us ready for playoff time. I hope this is kind of a preview of what’s to come down the road.”
Eighth-ranked Valencia (4-2) had a huge 34-21 win at home over Class 4A’s top-ranked Bloomfield (5-1).