Jeremy Maupin wasn’t asked specifically about this, but the fact that he brought it up on his own reveals everything about the importance of Los Lunas’ football victory on Friday night.
Truth is, Los Lunas straighened out its entire season on Friday.
The Tigers had a solid first half in Clovis, then were beaten handily in the second half. Roswell put up 56 on Los Lunas a couple of weeks ago, although I’m not entirely sure the Coyotes aren’t the best team in the southern half of the state, regardless of classification.
So, as Goddard rolled into town Friday, Los Lunas’ footing was anything but secure.
Think of the repercussions of a Tigers loss. That would have left them with a 3-3 record headed into their bye week, and might have put them in marginal danger of missing out on a first-round playoff bye.
But the Tigers’ win against Goddard makes a top-four seed – which comes with it a first-round postseason bye – practically a formality now.
At 4-2, Los Lunas has, from my chair, smooth sailing all the way to 8-2. Alamogordo isn’t going to give them a problem, and frankly, neither are any of their three district rivals: Valencia, Valley or even Belen, which is struggling mightily.
“We knew we could be a good team and we know who we can be,” junior defensive end Tyler Kiehne said. “We’re still not there yet.” Kiehne also said an interesting thing to me: that the Tigers not only made a statement to the rest of New Mexico, but proved to themselves “who we are.”
Which implies on some level that Los Lunas perhaps had at least some insecurity about which direction this season was taking.
Did the Tigers simply play poorly at Clovis and Roswell? Sure, perhaps, to a degree. But a veteran team like this one took those losses personally, apparently, and that’s a very good sign indeed.
Maybe the turning point was Maupin’s halftime speech to his team coming off the field from a scoreless tie Friday in the first half.
“We came in and really challenged our guys,” he said, “(to) be the team we gotta be.”
If the Tigers are still practicing come Thanksgiving Day, they may come to fondly remember that halftime pep talk.
INJURY BUGS: No. 1 Volcano Vista faces No. 2 Cleveland in less than three weeks (Oct. 18). It is fair to ask how this Hawks offense is going to perform in key October games with the Storm and Rio Rancho, whether or not Diego Pavia – who re-injured his left ankle the other night against Sandia – is at quarterback. Even if Pavia comes back from this latest setback, so far he’s only had about 3½ quarters this season with the first-team offense.
Hawks coach Chad Wallin on Saturday said Pavia was walking without a limp, but did not commit him to playing next week against West Mesa.
• La Cueva, meanwhile, faces a Connor O’Toole-less landscape for the next few weeks after it was discovered that the star wide receiver had a broken bone in his foot. Given the Bears’ issues running the ball, and the fact that their two best receivers from last year, O’Toole and Nas Robertson, are not in the lineup, La Cueva faces a potentially tricky month of October, leading up to that anticipated visit from Clovis on Nov. 1.
OFFICIALLY: From NMAA Commissioner of Officials Dana Pappas: in four of New Mexico’s five regions, the number of football officials has grown from last year. The Northeast region has not grown, Pappas said.
Also, fewer games have been forced to move off of Friday nights into a Thursday night or Saturday afternoon slot this season.
There are, Pappas said, 109 officials in the central region this season. That is seven more (an entire extra crew, plus two) than last season. The number statewide is slightly down, from 349 a year ago to 342 this fall, she added.
NIGHTHAWKS: Two weeks after Centennial had a two-hour lightning delay in Albuquerque against Sandia, the Hawks once again had a nightmarish road trip. Centennial’s 33-0 victory over Carlsbad began Friday night. After two lengthy interruptions, the game ended at 1:10 a.m. Saturday.
The Hawks rolled back into Las Cruces at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. And the JV kids who made the trip were on another bus, this one bound for Cloudcroft where Centennial was playing Artesia, at 7:30 a.m.
PARTING THOUGHT: How many 11-Man football teams do you suppose there are that dropped two games in the same season while scoring over 50 points themselves? Lovington has put up 54 points (Roswell, on Aug. 30) and 52 points (Artesia, on Friday) in its two losses.