LOS LUNAS – Los Lunas’ power and balance overwhelmed the Artesia Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon.
Defensive end Bryce Santana, once again displaying his very particular – and immensely popular – brand of usefulness in the goal-line offense, scored five touchdowns on five carries, quarterback Kade Benavidez threw for two scores, and the second-seeded Tigers swarmed the visiting Bulldogs 58-21 in a Class 5A state quarterfinal.
Los Lunas will visit No. 3 Goddard in next week’s semifinals. The Tigers beat the Rockets 21-7 in September.
Los Lunas was unstoppable in every way Saturday, rolling up 564 yards of total offense.
“We really were clicking on all cylinders,” said the 260-pound Santana, who has become a mainstay for the Los Lunas offense near the end zone.
Los Lunas ran for 296 yards, led by junior Derek Chavez, who rushed for 118 yards.
Benavidez outshined his counterpart, Clay Houghtaling, by completing 13 of 15 passes for 268 yards. He threw a 41-yard flea flicker touchdown to Lorenzo Sosa, plus a 28-yarder to Chavez.
Los Lunas scored touchdowns on its first eight possessions. The last one was empty, only because the Tigers took a knee.
“We just wanted to keep our foot on the pedal and keep it going,” said Benavidez. “Our goal coming in was to play four complete quarters.”
There was plenty of back-and-forth in the first third of the game.
Los Lunas went 61 yards, mostly on the ground, on the opening drive, where Santana scored from the 4. No. 10 seed Artesia (6-6) answered with a quick score, as Houghtaling, rolling to his right under duress, threw a 16-yard TD pass to Jacob Creighton.
The Tigers (9-2) went right back down the field; Santana added a 1-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left in the quarter. His third score made it 22-6.
Houghtaling chucked a 56-yard TD pass to Erik Cueto to shave the deficit to 22-14, but the final six minutes of the first half belonged to Los Lunas.
The Tigers put up three TDs in those six minutes, including one with 9 seconds left, and just two plays after a huge sack of Houghtaling. That last score made it 44-21 at halftime.
“It was huge,” Los Lunas coach Jeremy Maupin said. The Tigers scored 29 points in the second quarter.
“That was a huge momentum change,” added Santana. “You could tell, their energy started falling off after that.”
No. 2 LOS LUNAS 58, No. 10 ARTESIA 21
Artesia 6 15 0 0 — 21
Los Lunas 15 29 14 0 — 58
Scoring: LL, Bryce Santana 4 run (Joel Hernandez kick); A, Jacob Creighton 16 pass from Clay Houghtaling (kick failed); LL, Santana 1 run (Hernandez pass to Donald Thomas); LL, Santana 6 run (Hernandez kick); A, Erik Cueto 56 pass from Houghtaling (Houghtaling pass to Braxton McDonald); LL, Lorenzo Sosa 41 pass from Kade Benavidez (Hernandez kick); A, McDonald 23 pass from Houghtaling (PAT); LL, Santana 3 run (Hernandez pass to Thomas); LL, Derek Chavez 28 pass from Benavidez (Hernandez kick); LL, Thomas 9 run (Hernandez kick); LL, Santana 2 run (Hernandez kick). Records: LL 9-2; A 6-6.
First downs: A 13; LL 26. Rushes-yards: A 15-(minus-9); LL 49-296. Passing: A 20-34-0—242; LL 13-15-0—268. Total offense: A 233; LL 564. Punts-avg.: A 2-44.5; LL 0-0. Fumbles-lost: A 1-0; LL 0-0. Penalties-yards: A 5-50; LL 4-27.