Mexico: Fundidores capture their first ever Tazon Mexico in a nail biter

With the Mexican Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional title game – Tazón México V – on the line late in the contest, Fundidores de Monterrey quarterback Shelton Eppler did what he has done time and again in key games this year. He marched his team on a game-winning drive with little time left and the Fundidores went on to capture their first ever LFA title beating the Gallos Negros de Querétaro 18-14.

With this win, Monterrey becomes the first ever northern Mexico team to win a championship, as the previous four winners have all been from central Mexico, mainly from Mexico City. The game was close throughout the whole contest and the fans in the stands at Estadio Caliente in Tijuana loved it. It was a thrilling conclusion to a season that waited nearly two years to get finalized. 

Fundidores de Monterrey QB Shelton Eppler had a superb night

The Fundidores had the first possession but decided to punt after failing to advance in the first five minutes. When the Gallos Negros attempted their drive, quarterback Marco Garcia was under pressure the whole time. His offensive line offered no help, and he was consistently smothered. On a third and eight from his own 38, Garcia fumbled the ball right into the hands of Fundidores linebacker Christian Hernandez. On the next play, running back Marcelo González broke a tackle and waltzed into the end zone from the 12-yard line giving Monterrey a 6-0 lead, which they held for the remainder of the quarter.

In the second quarter, the problems of the Gallos Negros offense persisted but the defense then stepped up. With the Fundidores driving into Querétaro territory, Gallos linebacker punched the ball out of the hands of Fundidores running back Alan Zarate and defensive lineman Jason Smith scooped up the ball and raced 75 yards to even the score at 6-6. The PAT was good and the team from Querétaro took a 7-6 lead with just over a minute left in the second quarter.

The dramatics did not end there though.

Eppler marched his team into Gallos territory and with three seconds on the clock Ricardo Aguilar atoned for his earlier missed extra point by kicking a 46-yard field goal with no time left to give the Fundidores a 9-7 lead going into the break.

The third quarter was still a similar story for the Gallos Negros, as their passing game was mostly ineffective due to the play of their offensive line. The low point was when Marco Garcia turned the ball over yet again, this time on an interception by Fundidores defensive back Cosme Lozano. Unfortunately for Monterrey, despite gaining momentum on the drive, they still went three and out yet again. When the Gallos got the ball back, they went back to the running game, with running back Emilio Chávez carrying the load, helping bring his team to the red zone just before the quarter was over.

Gallos Negros QB Marco Garcia reaches the end zone

In the fourth quarter, Querétaro capitalized on their efforts and Marco Garcia marched his team on an eight-minute drive starting from his own eight-yard line and reaching the Fundidores seven. Then on a third and 10, he faked the handoff and took the ball in himself. With the extra point, the Gallos Negros went up 14-9 with a little over 10 minutes to go in the game.

The Fundidores got the ball back on their own 40-yard line.  That’s when quarterback Shelton Eppler went into MVP mode and started throwing crisp passes to his intended targets to march his team down the field. He found the league touchdown leader, wide receiver Torin Justice, to get them across midfield and then he threw via a tight window to Daniel Peña. In the red zone, a string of Gallos penalties, including a facemask call, gave the Fundidores plenty of opportunities to score. Finally, Brandon Calzoncit plunged into the end zone from the one-yard line with three and a half minutes to go to give the Fundidores a 15-14 lead after a failed PAT.

The Gallos Negros got the ball back, but the Fundidores defensive fron seven took over with defensive tackle Martín Maldonado sacking Garcia twice on the failed drive.

Monterrey took over on downs with a minute left at the Gallos 25-yard line and on a fourth down elected to kick with Aguilar connecting for a 39-yard field goal.

Gallos did get the ball back, but it was too little too late as Maldonado sacked Garcia again and recovered a fumble to end the game.

For the first time in their history, the Fundidores de Monterrey were crowned Tazón México champions thanks in large part to the game’s MVP, Martín Maldonado, who became the first ever defensive MVP in the game’s history.

A recent graduate of Hofstra University in New York. He is currently a sports freelance journalist and podcaster