Tiger football mercy-rules Pius; will face Eagles next

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Coming off another dominant performance, the Los Lunas High football team will have more than a week to prepare for what will be one of its most intense regular-season games this year.

The Tigers (5-0) controlled every facet of the game in Saturday’s 41-6, mercy-rule victory over St. Pius at Milne Stadium. On Friday, Oct. 12, Los Lunas travels to Belen for the District 6-4A opener — which also happens to be the 60th annual Valencia Bowl.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas junior tailback Jalen Chavez takes off down the right sideline in the first quarter of Saturday’s game against St. Pius at Milne Stadium. The Tigers dominated in every area in their 41-6 win, and have this weekend off as they prepare for the District 6-4A opener at Belen on Friday, Oct. 12.

Even with all the things that went well for LLHS in the St. Pius game, including a very impressive defensive showing, the Tigers still have things to work on, according to Los Lunas coach Jeremy Newton.

“We’ve got to get better at execution, on both sides of the ball,” said Newton. “Any team coached by (Belen’s) John Lerma is going to be very well-prepared.

The Tigers won last year’s game, 21-13, with a late score. They’ve won 13 of their last 15 regular-season games, and Saturday’s win was never in doubt.

St. Pius (3-2) received the opening kickoff and fumbled on its first offensive play, with Tyler Hanson recovering for Los Lunas at the Sartan 18-yard line.

Los Lunas then picked up a first down and lost yardage on a sack and a penalty before Chris Wisneski hit Jalen Chavez with a 31-yard touchdown pass over the middle.

The Tiger defense held the Sartans in check all day, allowing only 20 yards and zero first downs in the first half. After the first LLHS score, Los Lunas forced a punt, and Brandon Casias capped a 63-yard drive with a one-yard plunge.

St. Pius was forced into another three-and-out, and Greg Wortman and Mikey Martinez broke free to block a punt after a bad snap. Wortman recovered it in the end zone, and the Tigers were up 21-0 with 1:27 left in the first quarter.

Gustavo Muñoz, a Tiger soccer player who is also one of the football team’s placekickers, hit a 20-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Casias later scored on a 60-yard third-down touchdown run.

The Sartans again fumbled deep in their end of the field, and Chavez muscled in for a 5-yard score. Los Lunas led 38-0 at the half, and the clock ran per the mercy rule (when one team leads by 35) throughout the second half.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas linebacker Isaac Parra, No. 13, hunts down Nic Stafford of St. Pius in Saturday’s game at Milne Stadium. The Tigers dominated in every area in their 41-6 win, and have this weekend off as they prepare for the District 6-4A opener at Belen on Friday, Oct. 12.

Muñoz accounted for the Tigers’ only points of the second half on an impressive 41-yard field goal — six yards short of Spenser Waquie’s school record.

St. Pius averted the shutout with a late scoring drive that was capped by a 5-yard run by T.J. Sanchez with 1:50 left in the game.

The Tigers rushed for 232 yards and held the Sartans to 119 total yards.

Casias finished with 139 yards on only 15 carries. Chavez, who scored the Tigers’ other touchdown, had 76 yards on the ground.

Nic Stafford led St. Pius with 95 rushing yards, but the Sartans had so much negative yardage, the team’s rushing total was only 89 yards.

The Tigers are hoping to heal some players up before the Belen game. Newton had to move Wortman from tight end to tackle and utilize senior Charles Truesdell to adjust for offensive-line injuries.

Casias, a senior, filled in splendidly for junior fullback Darron Gallegos, who should play against Belen after missing the St. Pius contest with a high ankle sprain.

“We had been using Brandon primarily on defense,” said Newton. “But he’s a good athlete. This is a good bunch. They’ve learned to handle adversity.”


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