Tigers run to their first state crown - Albuquerque Journal

Tigers run to their first state crown

The Los Lunas Tigers begin their celebration, led by head coach Greg Henington, left, Dominic Griego (16) and Kaden Bell (1) of the school’s first-ever state football title.
Roberto E. Rosales/Journal

Class 5A: LOS LUNAS 40, ARTESIA 28

LOS LUNAS 40, ARTESIA 28 Artesia 7 0 7 14-28 Los Lunas 20 0 6 14-40 Scoring: LL, Karlos Cieremans 3 run (pass failed); LL, Karlos Cieremans 6 run (Kaden Bell kick); A, Zaden Lopez 66 pass from Nate Taylor (Jacob Parrish kick); LL, Emilio Mora III 40 pass from Paul Cieremans (Bell kick); A, Peyton Greathouse 14 pass from Taylor (Parrish kick); LL, Paul Cieremans 29 run (kick failed); A, Kody Watson 10 pass from Taylor (Parrish kick); LL, Paul Cieremans 5 run (pass good); A, Lopez 30 pass from Taylor (Parrish kick); L, Paul Cieremans 59 run (kick failed). Records: LL 13-0, A 9-4. First downs: A 20; LL 14. Rushes-yards: A 21-25; LL 46-421. Passing: A 30-51-2-434; LL 1-4-1-40. Total offense: A 459; LL 461. Punts-avg.: A 3-36; LL 5-34.8. Fumbles-lost: A 3-2; L 1-1. Penalties-yards: A 8-65; LL 10-90.

LOS LUNAS – There was nothing fancy behind the approach Los Lunas used to earn its first blue trophy in football. It’s just that Artesia didn’t have any answers to stop it. Tigers run to their first state crownBy Tristen Critchfield For the Journal LOS LUNAS 40, ARTESIA 28 Artesia 7 0 7 14-28 Los Lunas 20 0 6 14-40 Scoring: LL, Karlos Cieremans 3 run (pass failed); LL, Karlos Cieremans 6 run (Kaden Bell kick); A, Zaden Lopez 66 pass from Nate Taylor (Jacob Parrish kick); LL, Emilio Mora III 40 pass from Paul Cieremans (Bell kick); A, Peyton Greathouse 14 pass from Taylor (Parrish kick); LL, Paul Cieremans 29 run (kick failed); A, Kody Watson 10 pass from Taylor (Parrish kick); LL, Paul Cieremans 5 run (pass good); A, Lopez 30 pass from Taylor (Parrish kick); L, Paul Cieremans 59 run (kick failed). Records: LL 13-0, A 9-4. First downs: A 20; LL 14. Rushes-yards: A 21-25; LL 46-421. Passing: A 30-51-2-434; LL 1-4-1-40. Total offense: A 459; LL 461. Punts-avg.: A 3-36; LL 5-34.8. Fumbles-lost: A 3-2; L 1-1. Penalties-yards: A 8-65; LL 10-90.

LOS LUNAS – There was nothing fancy behind the approach Los Lunas used to earn its first blue trophy in football. It’s just that Artesia didn’t have any answers to stop it.

Behind an offensive game plan that had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, the second-seeded Tigers (13-0) racked up 421 rushing yards en route to a 40-28 victory over the fourth-seeded Bulldogs in the Class 5A championship Saturday on their home field.

A whopping 291 of those rush yards – and a trio of second half touchdowns – came from junior quarterback Paul Cieremans, who found the vast majority of his success running directly into the teeth of the Artesia (9-4) defense.

“You’ve got to give the ballers a chance to take over the game,” said Los Lunas coach Greg Henington. “When the game’s on the line, you give Paul the ball. And that’s exactly what we did.”

With 1:14 remaining, Cieremans put an emphatic stamp on the Tigers’ historic victory with a 59-yard gallop for a touchdown to set off a raucous celebration in the stands. Moments later, the quarterback, who attempted just four passes all day, was on the field celebrating with his teammates, classmates, family and friends.

“There’s not a better feeling that I’ve ever felt in my life,” Cieremans said. “This is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid.”

A few minutes prior to Cieremans’ game-clinching run, tensions were much higher. Artesia, which on three different occasions faced two-score deficits, made a rally befitting a pedigreed program with 30 state championships to its credit.

Down 34-21 with a little more than five minutes remaining, Artesia – which routed undefeated No. 1 seed Farmington last week in the semifinals – cut the margin to six by marching 59 yards in approximately 30 seconds. The Bulldogs capped off the drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Nate Taylor to Zaden Lopez – their second connection of the day. All told, Taylor threw for 434 yards and four scores despite consistent pressure from the Tigers’ defensive front.

After a block in the back negated a potential 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the Tigers’ vaunted running attack was stymied on three consecutive plays.

A short punt gave Artesia new life at its 44 with 2:50 to go. The Bulldogs got as far as the Los Lunas 40 before the Tigers’ defense stiffened. On fourth-and-4, Taylor found Lopez for a quick-hitting pass – one similar to a play that resulted in a 66-yard touchdown in the first quarter. This time, Tigers defensive back Nicholas Torres sniffed it out and dropped Lopez for a 1-yard loss.

“I’ve seen that play multiple times (in the) game,” Torres said. “Our coach told us to look out for it, and I saw it. I did what I had to do.”

There were definitely a few sweaty palms on the Tigers sidelines in the moments before that decisive stop, however.

“I was pretty nervous. I think I almost had three heart attacks,” Henington quipped.

One play later, Cieremans was off to the races to permanently etch Los Lunas football into the history books at the expense of an Artesia program now coached by Jeremy Maupin, who had led the Tigers to state finals in 2018 and 2019 before resigning in April to return to his hometown.

“This is the first time we’ve seen him in a while,” Cieremans said of his old coach. “But we weren’t thinking about it. We were thinking about winning (our) first state championship.”


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