LOS LUNAS – With the season hanging in the balance, Los Lunas High School quarterback Paul Cieremans didn’t want to say that he put the Tigers on his back Saturday afternoon.
So others offered testimony to that effect on his behalf.
“Great football players take over games,” Los Lunas coach Greg Henington said. “And that’s exactly what he did.”
Cieremans engineered, first with his legs and later with his right arm, two clutch fourth-quarter scoring drives in the final 7½ minutes, and those two touchdowns allowed No. 2-seeded Los Lunas to preserve its perfect season in a thrilling 26-21 come-from-behind win over No. 6 Goddard in the Class 5A semifinals.
Down 21-20, it was a 28-yard TD pass from Cieremans to Fabian Trujillo with 2:00 to go that won the game for the Tigers, who trailed 21-7 at one point in the second half.
“We showed some true heart here today,” Cieremans said. “I love that about our team. We never quit. We got punched in the mouth and we came back.”
Los Lunas (12-0) will play host to No. 4 Artesia (9-3) – and former Tigers coach Jeremy Maupin, who left Los Lunas for the Bulldogs, his alma mater, just seven months ago – next Saturday at 1 p.m. in final.
Goddard (7-5) was leading 21-14 Saturday with under eight minutes to go, when things began to spiral out of control for the Rockets.
Goddard gambled heavily, going for a fourth-and-3 from the Los Lunas 46, but came up two yards short. Armed with terrific field position, Cieremans went quickly to work.
He carried the ball four times on the ensuing drive, and scored on a 4-yard TD run with 7:08 remaining. The Tigers attempted a 2-point conversion pass, but the throw missed, leaving Los Lunas down 21-20.
The Los Lunas defense forced a punt, and Cieremans continued to assert himself. He rushed five straight times for 42 yards, getting the Tigers to the Goddard 28.
On a second down, he rolled right and made by far his best throw of the day, to Trujillo on the near side.
“Paul’s amazing,” Trujillo said. “That kid’s good. They couldn’t tackle him, so we just kept running with him, and that opened up our passing game.”
Goddard largely controlled a penalty-marred first half. On the Rockets’ first offensive snap, sophomore Jon Silva took a pitch and motored 55 yards for a touchdown. On the first play of the second quarter, quarterback Adrian Vega threw a 35-yard scoring pass – on a third-and-16 – to Elijah Romero for a 14-0 lead. Los Lunas had to surmount that 14-point deficit in the second half.
“The kids today, at halftime, they had a chance at halftime to fold, or to dig down deep into their hearts,” Henington said. “They just dug deep, relaxed a little bit and started doing what we’ve been doing throughout the year. It was just an attitude adjustment, which they made on their own.”
Cieremans rushed 14 times for 138 yards in the second half alone.
LOS LUNAS 26, GODDARD 21
Goddard 7 14 0 0 — 21
Los Lunas 0 7 7 12 — 26
Scoring: G, Jon Silva 55 run (David Renteria kick); G, Elijah Romero 35 pass from Adrian Vega (Renteria kick); LL, Kevin Muñoz 1 run (Kaden Bell kick); G, Silva 31 run (Renteria kick); LL, Paul Cieremans 9 run (Bell kick); LL, Cieremans 4 run (pass failed); LL, Fabian Trujillo 28 pass from Cieremans (pass failed). Records: LL 12-0; G 7-5.
First downs: G 11; LL 15. Rushes-yards: G 42-211; LL 38-255. Passing: G 5-7-0—70; LL 5-16-0—120. Total offense: G 281; LL 375. Punts-avg.: G 4-32.8; LL 5-34.8. Fumbles-lost: G 4-1; LL 1-1. Penalties-yards: G 9-59; LL 10-110.
No. 4 ARTESIA 57, No. 1 FARMINGTON 14: At Bulldog Bowl, the Bulldogs (9-3) scored 13 points in the final 69 seconds of the second quarter to break a 14-14 tie, then pulled away from the previously unbeaten Scorpions (11-1).
Phillip Finley-Rascon’s 95-yard pick-6 of Farmington QB Brandon Furbee put Artesia in front 27-14 in the final seconds of the half, and the Bulldogs also scored on a TD pass to Zaden Lopez on the opening drive of the second half.
Class 4A semis
No. 1 LOVINGTON 54, No. 4 MORIARTY 12: In Lovington, Tayten Hilliard returned two punts for touchdowns, and Isaac Hinson blocked both a PAT and a punt as the Wildcats’ special teams led the way in a win over the Pintos (7-3).
Freshman Alec Holguin rushed for two scores and also caught a TD pass for Lovington (9-3).
No. 6 RUIDOSO 35, No. 2 BLOOMFIELD 22: In Bloomfield, Bracxton Hall’s touchdown run with 12 seconds to go in the first half put the Warriors (8-5) ahead for good at 21-14 as Ruidoso advanced to the 4A final against Lovington. Ruidoso scored 28 consecutive points after trailing the Bobcats (10-2) 14-7.
Class 3A semis
No. 4 ST. MICHAEL’S 7, No. 1 RATON 0: In Santa Fe, Devin Flores’ 19-yard second-quarter touchdown reception stood up, and the Horsemen’s defense dominated as they ousted the top-ranked Tigers (11-1). St. Mike’s (9-3) will play at Robertson in the state final at 1 p.m. next Saturday.
No. 3 ROBERTSON 38, No. 2 SOCORRO 29: In Las Vegas, N.M., sophomore receiver Mateo Contreras caught two third-quarter touchdown passes as the Cardinals (10-2), who trailed 13-12 at halftime, took the lead and eliminated the Warriors (10-2).
Class 2A final
No. 3 EUNICE 28, No. 1 JAL 15: In Jal, the Cardinals (9-3) won their fourth consecutive 2A state title as they toppled their rivals, the Panthers (10-2).
Eunice QB Conagher Pierce threw two touchdown passes to sophomore Ashton Thompson – the first put the Cardinals ahead for good at 14-7 – and Micah Tippett added a crucial 15-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 14-point lead.
Eunice avenged a 40-38 loss to Jal on Oct. 8.