Tiger football edges Aztec, will host Goddard on Friday in championship

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After about 60 years of football history, the Los Lunas Tigers are finally headed to a state championship game.

The Tigers held on to beat Aztec, 24-20, on the road Saturday in the Class 4A semifinals to improve to 12-0 and advance to the 4A title game. No. 2-seeded-Los Lunas will host No. 1 Goddard on Friday at 7 p.m., as determined by a coin flip.
Los Lunas led 18-0 at halftime of Saturday’s semifinal, then held off on furious effort by Aztec, also called the Tigers, to deny 2011 state champ Aztec what would have been its third straight appearance in the 4A title game.
“A state championship trophy would mean everything — to our school, to our village, and to our families,” said Los Lunas senior Preston Schollander. “We’ve been looking forward to this since YAFL.”
Los Lunas had more success running the ball, for the most part, and especially in the first half. The visiting Tigers started an eight-play, 95-yard drive late in the scoreless first quarter, with Chris Wisneski throwing a 21-yard, jump-ball touchdown pass to Chris Sanchez on the first play of the second period.
A pass fell incomplete on the conversion attempt. In fact, Los Lunas went for two points after all four touchdowns, and didn’t convert on any.
Los Lunas got two more touchdowns in the second quarter: a 69-yard scamper by Jalen Chavez, and a 5-yard run by Darron Gallegos. The Gallegos score was set up by an Eddie Canizo interception; the speedy Los Lunas secondary picked off Aztec quarterback Adam Lucero three times Saturday.
Aztec came out stronger in the second half, gaining both momentum and the lead. Lucero scrambled and found Brad Hardin wide open in the end zone for a 49-yard score. Later in the quarter, Lucero threw to Cody Rinerson, who broke a tackle and scored from 16 yards out.
The host Tigers took their only lead of the game with eight minutes to play in the game, with Lucero passing to a wide-open Hardin for a 32-yard score. The extra-point kick went wide left, and Aztec was up 20-18.
Los Lunas then mounted its gutsiest drive of the game, going 67 yards and getting a 2-yard dive from Gallegos for the go-ahead score.
The next drive ended with a Lucero pass being tipped and intercepted by Jacob Holland of Los Lunas. The visiting Tigers were forced to punt, and Lucero drove the hosts from their own 10 to the Los Lunas 32,  but his final pass sailed beyond the end zone as time expired. 
Lucero was 20-of-47 for 242 yards with three TDs and three picks in his final game for Aztec, which reached the semifinals with an impressive road overtime at Artesia last weekend.
Chavez rushed for 185 yards for LLHS, which had 257 yards on the ground as a team. Wisneski was 9-of-18 for 151 yards with one touchdown, though Aztec intercepted him twice.
“This is a team with great leadership,” said Los Lunas coach Jeremy Newton. “And we needed it. Aztec really brought it today.”


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