It was the Nic Trujillo Show Friday night at Lightning Bolt Stadium, as the future Lobo scored five touchdowns.
Sadly for the Storm, the show didn’t have a happy ending.
No. 5 Centennial, winless in five previous meetings with the Storm, scored in the game’s final minute to eke out a 38-35 victory.
It ended two streaks for the two-time defending Class 6A champion Storm: It ended their 22-game winning streak as well as their 15-game winning streak at home.
Hawks quarterback Daniel Hernandez ran the read-option offense to near-perfection — knowing when to hand the ball off to running back Mikah Gutierrez, who carried the ball 21 times for 194 yards and scored a touchdown on an 81-yard run in the second quarter — and when to keep it.
Hernandez ran for 83 yards on 16 times, which included his 5-yard sneak to paydirt with 44.7 seconds left in the game.
Getting back to Trujillo, he caught touchdown passes from fellow senior Evan Wysong of 68, 37, 35 and 22 yards, and had a 90-yard kickoff return.
His 68-yard TD reception and the long kickoff return happened before the contest was four minutes old.
He also held for all five points-after by Jeff Bem, and out of a flea-flicker play, took a pitch from Josh Perry and tossed 17-yard pass to Wysong on a third-and-long play with about five minutes left in the game.
“I always want to go out and play good,” he said. “We still have to focus on the game plan; offensively, I think we did pretty well.
“There’s some things that we could’ve done. I tipped a pass that was intercepted — if that doesn’t happen, we win,” he said. “We’’ be back — this doesn’t mean anything.”
That interception turned out to be the only turnover in the game and came early in the second quarter.
Trujillo said he wasn’t surprised at the intensity and excitement of the game: “They always play us tough; they played us tough since my first start in my sophomore year. … Last year, it was the first game of the year and they played us tough.”
That was a convincing 49-21 Storm win at the Field of Dreams in Las Cruces.
The Storm were at the Hawks’ 25, facing a fourth and 5. The Hawks grabbed the ball after it came off Trujillo’s hands and one play later, Gutierrez was streaking toward the end zone on that 81-yard
TD of his, which gave Centennial a 20-14 lead.
The Storm came back on the 37-yard scoring pass from Wysong to Trujillo, and the Ben PAT made it 21-20.
The Hawks scored again before halftime and led, 26-21, at intermission.
Surprisingly, for a team with such a traditionally potent offense, the Storm visited the red zone just once: With a first down and a mere 1.3 seconds left in the second period, a Wysong pass to Trujillo was just beyond his reach.
The Storm never got that deep again, although Trujillo’s fourth TD of the game, the lone touchdown of the third quarter, gave Cleveland a 28-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But a 57-yard TD pass from Hernandez got the Hawks within 35-32 with 9:25 to go, and Hernandez capped an impressive 75-yard, 10-play drive with that winning sneak in the final minute.
Hernandez wound up with 83 rushing yards on 16 carries and was sacked twice. Through the air, he was 18 of 20 for 221 yards and four TD passes.
Perry was stymied by the Hawks’ defense, managing only 61 yards on 16 carries.
Wysong ran for just 9 yards on five carries and was sacked once. He was 15 of 22 passing, good for 209 yards.
First-year head coach Robert Garza was in an understandably somber mood.
“They kicked our butts,” he said. “They came out, played harder than we did. They got it done.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do,” he said. “It was not a good defensive performance.
“We settled down a little bit early in the second half; we had it figured out for a minute and just gave up big plays.
“You can’t give up big plays if you want to win a football game,” Garza added, and was asked to comment on his defensive coordinator’s one-word summation, “immaturity,” as he walked across the field.
“There’s a lot of youth out there; there’s gonna be a lot of learning,” he said. “We’re gonna be ready for next week.”
The Storm head to Wilson Stadium Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff vs. No. 2 La Cueva, which avenged two losses in 2021 to Rio Rancho with a 30-7 thrashing of the Rams at Rio Rancho Stadium, a game that ended shortly before the Storm-Hawks encounter.