Nov. 17—La Cueva scored early, La Cueva scored often. The Bears hit long plays on the ground. Very long. The Bears hit long plays in the air. Very long.
The Bears scored on their first five drives Friday night, and they advanced to the Class 6A state championship football game with a 63-33 Class 6A semifinal victory over No. 7 seed Las Cruces High at Wilson Stadium.
No. 3 La Cueva (9-3) won its ninth straight, and will face No. 1 Cleveland (9-3) in a rematch of last year's state final. The Storm will be hosting the game at 1 p.m. Saturday. Cleveland won 75-61 a year ago at Wilson Stadium in the championship game.
This is the third time La Cueva and Cleveland are meeting in the season's final game since 2018.
"We knew there would be a challenge to get to this point, and we knew we were probably gonna see them at the end," Bears coach Brandon Back said of the Storm.
Cleveland beat La Cueva 27-7 in Week 2 in Rio Rancho.
"I think we have to come out ready to play," La Cueva junior quarterback Cam Dyer said following his monster performance Friday night. "They've been the top dogs for a while, we're looking to knock them down."
Dyer was sensational on Friday. He rushed 17 times for 200 yards and scored three touchdowns, including an electrifying 86-yard score late in the third quarter. He also threw for 334 yards on just 11 completions. The last of them was the real eye-catcher, a 97-yard bomb to speedy sophomore Tanner Montano for the Bears' final points.
There was true symmetry with this La Cueva offense that has been firing for two months.
The Bears had 347 rushing yards.
The Bears had 334 passing yards.
"These guys, they love to watch film, they love to break down what they're doing right, what they're doing wrong and get better at it," Back said. "That pays dividends on the weekend."
La Cueva's explosive offense, which has been over 45 points in eight of its nine wins during this streak following an 0-3 start, was just about perfect coming out of the gate on Friday.
Cheeto Lumbrera III — who himself had a tremendous night, with 147 yards rushing and four touchdowns — went unabated 71 yards for a TD on the game's second play, with the game only 23 seconds old.
The Bears went 83 yards in four plays on their next drive; Dyer's 65-yard bomb to Montano set up Dyer's 6-yard scoring run. And on the third drive, Dyer's 45-yard completion to Jackson Hix came one play before Dyer scored from the 4.
La Cueva gained 230 yards of offense on its first 10 plays, with three scores. It's been this way for much of this streak.
"I think our team just clicked, more so than one side of the ball or the other," Dyer said. "We faced a lot of adversity early, and I think that's ultimately coming up to give us that edge."
Las Cruces (7-6), which fell into a 28-7 hole 10 1/2 minutes into the game, hung around. Bizarre as it might sound, the Bulldawgs even had a legitimate chance to make this a tight game as the second half began.
Before that, the Bulldawgs' Daniel Amaro took a direct snap 42 yards for their first score, tight end Rico Andrade took a direct snap and scored from the 1, and Las Cruces earned an important score right before halftime, as it converted a Dyer interception into a TD pass, 15 yards from Gunnar Guardiola to Nate Libby.
It was 35-20 La Cueva at halftime. The Bears gained 385 yards in the opening two quarters (681 for the game); Lumbrera had three rushing TDs in the first half alone.
Las Cruces was driving for a score on the first drive of the second half that could have cut the deficit to a single score, but the Bulldawgs fumbled it away inside the 20. La Cueva recovered and quickly capitalized, going the other way, 84 yards in four plays — the Bears' scoring drives were mostly like this, a bunch of yards on very few plays — and Dyer throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cruz Markham.
"The run game was really there," said Lumbrera. "The O-line had great blocks; I can run behind them all day. It opened up the pass game and that's all we needed to click."
LA CUEVA 63, LAS CRUCES 33
Las Cruces 7 13 6 7 — 33
La Cueva 28 7 14 14 — 63
Scoring: LaCu, Cheeto Lumbrera III 71 run (Chance Whitmire kick); LaCu, Cam Dyer 6 run (Whitmire kick); LasCr, Daniel Amaro 42 run (Dalin Walter kick); LaCu, Dyer 4 run (Whitmire kick); LaCu, Lumbrera 23 run (Whitmire kick); LasCr, Rico Andrade 1 run (kick blocked); LaCu, Lumbrera 2 run (Whitmire kick); LasCr, Nate Libby 15 pass from Gunnar Guardiola (Walter kick); LaCu, Cruz Markham 16 pass from Dyer (Whitmire kick); LasCr, Amaro 9 run (kick blocked); LaCu, Dyer 86 run (Whitmire kick); LaCu, Lumbrera 1 run (Whitmire kick); LaCu, Tanner Montano 97 pass from Dyer (Whitmire kick); LasCr, Andrade 2 run (Christian Carillo-Torres kick). Records: La Cueva 9-3; Las Cruces 7-6.
First downs: LasCr 20; LaCu 13. Rushes-yards: LasCr 40-234; LaCu 31-347. Passing: LasCr, 13-26-2—201; LaCu, 11-16-1—334. Total offense: Las Cruces 435; La Cueva 681. Punts-avg.: LasCr 1-29.0; LaCu 0-0. Fumbles-lost: LasCr 2-2; LaCu 0-0. Penalties-yards: LasCr 7-55; LaCu 14-111.