Los Lunas gashes Aztec 64-20 in season opener
University of Michigan commit O'Maury Samuels hurts Tigers with 186 rushing yards and three touchdowns
- Aztec lost its season opener in large part because Los Lunas rushed for 424 yards as a team.
- Aztec wide receiver Sebastian McNeal had 179 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions.
- Quarterback Cody Smith threw one touchdown, rushed for another and had one interception for Aztec in defeat.
AZTEC — The Aztec football team felt the wrath of University of Michigan commit O’Maury Samuels and the Los Lunas rushing attack tonight at Fred Cook Memorial Stadium.
Aztec fell 64-20 in the season opener and allowed the visitors to gain 424 yards on the ground, 368 of which came in the first half.
Aztec coach Mark Steinfeldt said the game plan for Samuels was to keep him from getting outside with his runs.
"We tried to keep him between the tackles and get as many guys to get contact on him as possible," Steinfeldt said. "A couple of times early, we felt like we did that, but that's a kid that's extremely talented."
Samuels and dual-threat quarterback Nick Gaerlan combined for seven scoring plays of 36 yards or more in the rout.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Samuels found plenty of holes in the trenches to run through, and when the holes weren’t there, he showed good instincts by bouncing outside before letting his speed and athleticism do the rest.
Samuels scored on touchdown runs of 36, 36 and 67 yards in the first half. He rushed for 186 yards and sat out the second half.
Gaerlan was also electric, throwing three touchdown passes and rushing for a 66-yard score on a first-half option keeper.
As Los Lunas poured in the scores, Aztec junior quarterback Cody Smith and the offense provided cheers here and there for the hometown fans in the first half. Smith worked in a lot of four-and-five receiver sets out of the shotgun and repeatedly tried to find his receivers on long passes up the sidelines.
He did connect on a couple of those bombs when he found his receivers in one-on-one situations up the sidelines, including his 75-yard hookup with Sebastian McNeal late in the first quarter.
The highlight of Aztec's night came when Smith led the offense on a five-play, 76-yard drive with a little more than a minute to go in the half, culminating in a 1-yard quarterback keeper up the middle for a score. Smith went four for four on the drive. The passing game offered mixed results in the opener, according to Steinfeldt.
"I felt Cody managed the game extremely well in the first half," Steinfeldt said. "We had opportunities, but we weren't crisp, as you'd expect with the offense in game one. We weren't as crisp as we needed to be and missed some deep throws that we should have had."
Smith threw one interception, and Aztec turned the ball over on downs once in the contest.
Los Lunas took a 48-14 lead into halftime and triggered the running clock after its first drive of the second half when Trevor Brohard caught a quick hitter from Gaerlan and took it 85 yards to the house.
After the half, Kyler Duggins took over under center. He also threw a long touchdown pass to McNeal, good for 69 yards. McNeal, a junior, caught seven passes for 179 yards and the two TDs in the game.
Steinfeldt tipped his hat to Samuels and Los Lunas' Noah Gum — who also rushed for more than 100 yards on the night — but said gap control will be a priority for his defense in practice this week.
"Obviously, the problem with (Jacob Luna) popping through or (Tyler Barnes) popping through, that's an issue," Steinfeldt said. "We have to control those gaps and push people down more physically than that. (Gum) busting out on us, that makes sense with the type of athlete he is, but their second, third, fourth backs popping through, that's an issue we gotta address."
Aztec will stay at home next week to play Durango, Colo., which defeated Delta, Colo., 21-20 tonight.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.