Tiger football controls ball to beat Sandia; Pius next


The Tigers’ pre-district portion of the schedule reads like a Murderer’s Row of tough football teams.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas High defender Tyler Mariano gets his hands around the legs of Sandia quarterback Craig Coffman as Tyler Hanson comes in to help. The Tigers controlled the ball in the 20-7 win, and are set to take on St. Pius at 5 p.m. Saturday at Milne Stadium.

With wins over state defending Class 4A champion Aztec, Class 5A Alamogordo and 4A Del Norte, The Tigers (4-0) served notice Friday night that they were one of the top teams in 4A with a convincing 20-7 win over powerful 5A Sandia (3-1).

The Tigers’ final pre-district opponent will be St. Pius (3-1), who they will face Saturday at Milne Stadium in Albuquerque. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.

Los Lunas scored touchdowns on its first two possessions on Friday night at Willie Chavez Field in a game that lived up to the billing of two heavyweights going after each other.

The Tiger defense rose to the occasion three times in the second half to stop Sandia.

Jalen Chavez topped off the first scoring drive that took 11 plays and went 96 yards. Chavez went the final three yards right up the middle for the touchdown and Collin Keeton kicked the extra point.

Los Lunas quarterback Chris Wisneski kept the crucial opening drive alive with a third-down completion to running back Darron Gallegos at the Sandia 30-yard line.

After forcing a Sandia punt, Los Lunas went to work again, driving the ball behind the running of Chavez and Wisneski. The senior QB hit Jacob Holland for a 14-yard completion that kept the drive moving. The Tigers went up 14-0 on Chavez’s second three-yard scoring run and Gustavo Muñoz’s kick.

Sandia responded right before the half, capping a 74-yard drive that took most of the last 6:19 off the clock.

Matador quarterback Craig Coffman found Zach Garcia for a five-yard scoring strike, and Sandia had pulled to within 14-7 at the half.

Sandia’s defense got a key stop on the first series of the second half, holding Los Lunas on downs at the Matador 31.

It looked as if Sandia was on the way to tying the game up, but a holding call and a 3rd-and-long sack of Coffman then put the ball back to the 47-yard line.

Sandia punted, and Los Lunas drove the ball into Matador territory before Gallegos was hit at the 19-yard line and fumbled.

Still down 14-7 with 4:17 left in the game, Sandia was stopped on downs at their own 47-yard line.

The Tigers put the game away with a twisting 21-yard run by Chavez with 2:08 left to make the score 20-7.

Chavez finished with 135 yards on 23 carries. Gallegos added 57 yards on 10 totes.

Wisneski had a tremendous night, hitting on 9-of-10 passes for 107 yards. He added 37 yards on the ground on nine carries.

Chris Sanchez had three catches for 40 yards. Gallegos had four catches for 28 yards.

Sandia had one last chance to try and find the end zone, but a Los Lunas player intercepted the ball at the Sandia 46 with 1:40 left in the game.

Coffman was only 6-of-19 for 58 yards with one interception after going 9-of-13 against Volcano Vista the week before.

Los Lunas turns its attention to St. Pius, a traditional 4A playoff team.

The Sartans come in with a loss to St. Mikes, but three convincing wins over Albuquerque High (41-7), Los Alamos (41-0) and Bernalillo (56-6).

In last Friday’s win at Bernalillo, seniors T.J. Sanchez and Nic Stafford had a combined 41 carries for 396 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. The Sartans ran the ball 56 times for 505 yards and scored 27 points in the fourth quarter.

-- Email the author at mstearns@news-bulletin.com.