The Chile Roaster will remain in Los Lunas for another year after the Tigers secured a 39-0 win over the Belen Eagles in the annual Valencia Bowl.
“We came out and it didn’t start so good. We had the turnovers and some things early,” Los Lunas head coach Jeremy Maupin said.
“I thought once we settled in we did kind of what we expected to do, come in here and play good football. Really proud of these guys. I thought we ran the ball well, threw the ball well, the defense had a lot of turnovers, we had some sacks.
“Just a really complete game, which just tells you what kind of team this is.”
The game got off to a rocky start for both teams, as the two sides traded turnovers.
Los Lunas appeared to be driving for what would have been the first score of the game when Gavin Chavez reached in and stripped Los Lunas wideout Joel Hernandez inside the ten-yard line.
However, the Los Lunas defense quickly shut down what could have been a massive momentum builder for the Eagles, forcing a quick three-and-out.
Los Lunas would fumble again on their next possession, but again Belen would be unable to make them pay for the turnover.
The Tigers would finally open the scoring with 5:09 to go in the first quarter which was the first time all spring that an opponent had managed to score on the Belen defense.
The touchdown came on an eight-yard pass from LLHS quarterback Paul Cieremans to Hernandez, who made a leaping catch over Chris Lucero to put the Tigers up 8-0 after a two-point conversion.
Los Lunas would score again less than a minute of game time later, as Belen running back Anthony Roybal fumbled on the first play of the drive and have the Tigers recover.
On the next play, Cieremans connected with Lorenzo Sosa along the Belen sideline for a touchdown, putting Los Lunas up 15-0 with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter.
LLHS would score once more in the first quarter, this time on a Derek Chavez run, to take a 22-0 lead.
The Belen offense put together some solid drives in the second quarter but failed to score each time as the Eagles were unable to work into the red zone against Los Lunas.
The Tiger defense made things difficult for Belen quarterback Ben Hirschfeld, who threw multiple interceptions in his final game in an Eagles uniform.
Los Lunas scored twice more in the second quarter, with the second of those touchdowns coming in the final five seconds of the half, giving the Tigers a 36-0 lead at the break.
As a result of the score, the second half was played with a running clock and the Tigers inserted some new faces into the game.
“Everyone who dressed out was able to play today which was awesome,” Maupin said.
“It’s great to be able to get everyone in on the action.”
The only points scored in the second half came on a field goal from Tigers kicker Kaden Bell, which gave the Tigers the 39-0 lead which would become the final score.
It appeared that LLHS had scored another touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but the run by senior Zachary Doyle was called back on a hold.
The victory gave Los Lunas its fourth straight win over Belen including playoff match ups, tying the second-longest winning streak in school history.
Both programs said goodbye to another class of seniors after the game. Maupin gathering his 19 seniors, the first class he had for all four years, as Belen’s 14 seniors took part in the annual Eagle Walk, leaving the field at BHS hand in hand for the final time.
For the Tigers, this was the group that helped transform the program into a perennial state title contender and one which will see multiple players continue on to play in college.
“Just a great group of seniors,” Maupin said.
“This was my first group, I got here when they were freshman and these guys came into the program and we always talked about setting a standard of winning football games and being good men. I’m just really proud of these guys.
“I wish we got to play a few more games but I’m glad we got to finish it this way instead of the way we thought we were going to finish it.”
Belen will have to find a way this offseason to replace Hirschfeld and Roybal, the core of the offense, in addition to players such as Aaron Breeze and Chris Lucero.
The Tigers will finish the season undefeated with a record of 3-0, while Belen finishes 2-1.
The Jaguars were at home Saturday afternoon looking to pick up their first win of the season against the Valley Vikings but came up short as Valley won 33-18 to improve to 2-1.
The Jaguars finish the year 0-3 after their transition to a true 4A schedule was delayed due to the pandemic.
In their three games, VHS only played one 4A opponent, Pojoaque Valley.