FARMINGTON — The ground game of the fifth-seeded Los Lunas football team was unlike anything No. 12 Kirtland Central had encountered in 2016.
Los Lunas running backs Jacob Luna and O'Maury Samuels combined for five rushing touchdowns on only 10 carries as their Tigers cruised to a 60-10 victory over visiting Kirtland Central (6-5) tonight in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
In the first half alone, an astonishing four Los Lunas (8-3) touchdowns came on the first play of a Tiger drive. After the game, Broncos coach Greg Jenks said he thought his team was too fired up for its own good.
"I think as a coach, I'm going to have to learn from this," Jenks said. "I think adrenaline was running so high that, fundamentally, we weren't there. So I'm going to have to learn from this situation and learn to keep the adrenaline in check."
Los Lunas racked up more than 500 yards of total offense in the game. Samuels, a University of Michigan commit, carried the ball five times for 122 yards and three touchdowns. He missed the better part of Los Lunas' final four games of the regular season due to injury, so after making his presence felt early on, he mostly played the role of a decoy the rest of the game.
Samuels played until the mercy rule went into effect, a few minutes into the second half. Jenks said the ESPN four-star recruit was as good as advertised.
"Well, he doesn't have a lick of fat on him, he's all muscle, and he can fly," Jenks said.
Down 47-3 with less than four minutes remaining in the first half, Broncos senior Zach Van Duren upheld his reputation as one of the best kick returners in the state when he broke free for an 85-yard return before being tackled at the Tigers 5-yard line.
A couple of plays later, KC QB Bryson Dowdy hit Cadan Flack over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
Jenks praised the explosive Van Duren, who returned three kickoffs for scores during the regular season, for the kind of player and person he is.
"I've never had a kid like him before. I've never been around a kid like that, who just cares about everybody," Jenks said. "He's a 4.0 student. As I'm talking now, he's out on the field playing football with a group of little kids. He knows he's making their day."
Los Lunas took a 54-10 lead into halftime. KC got the ball out of the half but turned it over on downs. Less than two minutes later, a six-play Los Lunas drive, capped by a 20-yard TD run by quarterback Nick Gaerlan, ended the game early.
Jenks said he owes a lot of KC's surprise season to the strong leadership of his seniors.
"Coming up from 4A, who in the state thought we would make the playoffs?" Jenks said. "These seniors left their mark, and they've got this program pointing in the right direction."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.