Los Lunas East Pee Wees outlast West Mesa, claim Super Bowl title

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Even though it was calm and chilly Sunday morning at Milne Stadium, the defenses of two youth football teams were heating things up.

The Los Lunas East defense was just hot enough to get the win in the 2012 New Mexico Young America Football League Super Bowl for the Pee Wee division, as the Tigers emerged with a 12-6 victory. They had a 10-2 record this season.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Karlos Cieremans, with ball, runs behind the blocking of teammate Zach Vigil in Sunday’s Super Bowl. The Los Lunas East YAFL Pee Wee Tigers held on to beat West Mesa, 12-6, and Cieremans and Vigil each handled much of the running-back duties.

“We’re the smallest team in the division,” said coach Danny Padilla, referring to the stature of the players. “But we worked hard, we fought, we cried, and had an excellent season, and we came out on top.”

A 44-yard touchdown run by Emilio Mora with 8:19 left in the game provided the winning points for the Tigers, whose players are 8 years old. The Mustangs had tied the game, 6-6, just minutes earlier on an even longer play, a 51-yard scamper on a reverse by Samar Chelf with about 1:05 left in the third quarter.

Zach Vigil and Karlos Cieremans had a number of key runs in the contest, with the help of some key blocks from the offensive line. Vigil scored the Tigers’ first touchdown late in the first quarter on a sprint around the far left side.

The Tiger defense also came up with some big plays, especially on third and fourth down, and put progressively more pressure on the Mustang quarterback as West Mesa ran more pass plays late in the game.

Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo: Emilio Mora streaks past a West Mesa defnder en route to what turned out to be his team’s game-winning touchdown Sunday. The Los Lunas East YAFL Pee Wee Tigers held on to beat West Mesa, 12-6, at Milne Stadium.

After Mora got loose and made it down the left sideline for the go-ahead score, the Tiger defense came up big. First, the Tigers recovered a fumble at the Mustang 39-yard line, and though their next drive ended on downs, they moved the ball deep into West Mesa territory.

The Tiger defense then forced the Mustangs to turn the ball over on downs, getting sacks on both third and fourth down, and then ran out the clock for the win.

It was the third Super Bowl win in the last five seasons for Los Lunas teams. A large group played together on the 2008 Mighty Mite and 2010 Rookies champion teams.

That group, competing in the Sophomore division this year, fell in a close semifinal to La Cueva, 8-0. The Belen Juniors also reached the semifinals, but the East Tigers were the only Valencia County team to make it to Super Bowl Sunday this year.

The East Pee Wees had to beat another Los Lunas team, the No. 1 seed, in a hard-fought semifinal, 20-12. No. 4 Los Lunas East got past Eldorado and Cleveland in the first two rounds.

West Mesa reached the finals as a No. 8 seed, beating Rio Rancho and upsetting No. 7 La Cueva and No. 5 Cibola en route to the Super Bowl.

Both teams battled to a standstill Sunday after the Tigers’ opening score, as neither team could sustain a drive. The defenses made plays all day, except for the two long scoring runs in the second half.

When the Tigers took the lead on Mora’s touchdown, it elated the Tiger players, including Jacob Farley.

“We were really happy — screaming and yelling and cheering,” said Farley. “We felt like we had it then, but we still had to go back out there and play hard.”

Farley said the West Mesa touchdown fooled the Tiger defense slightly, and the players took it pretty hard.

“We got kind of depressed, because we knew it was all our fault,” said Farley.

The team is set to compete this weekend in the Gridiron Classic, a Farmington tournament that has teams from several states.

Padilla, the son of Los Lunas High principal Dan Padilla, said the team’s work ethic was important. So was having some experienced assistant coaches, such as LLHS head coach Jeremy Newton, on the sidelines.

“We had to beat a really good Los Lunas team, and two other solid opponents, just to get here,” he said as the team celebrated after the trophy presentation. “That’s what hard work can do — and having some of the best coaches in the county on our staff sure helps.”


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