Thatcher, Ariz. – Ugly wins count just as much as pretty ones, and the Arizona Western football team won ugly on the road to open the season. The top-ranked Matadors (1-0 overall) clamped down on 19th ranked Eastern Arizona (1-1 overall) in the second half to erase a two touchdown deficit and win 21-14.
With Eastern Arizona up 14-0 at the start of the second half, Matador safety Bryce Beekman picked off a pass and tiptoed down the sideline for a 22-yard touchdown. Gabriel Claudio knocked in the extra point, and the Mats were suddenly only down seven points less than 55 seconds after halftime.
Eastern then marched down the field into the red zone, but the Matador defense stiffened up, and EAC’s Patrick LeCorre shanked a 31-yard field goal.
The Matador offense finally found a groove and marched down the field, but EAC’s Malik Dixon picked off Bryce Perkins at the one yard line.
AWC’s defense returned the favor three plays later. EAC dropped a pitch in the end zone. Everybody dogpiled to get the ball, and AWC linebacker Kalen Williams came out of the pile with the football for a Matador touchdown. The extra point tied the game at 14 apiece with nine seconds to play in the third quarter.
Greg Bell III finally put the Mats over the top in the fourth quarter. After being bottled up for most of the game, the 6’0, 190 pound sophomore erupted with less than four minutes to play. He ran straight up the gut and danced past the safeties on the way to a 46 yard touchdown and a 21-14 lead. In the fourth quarter, he finished with 113 yards on five carries, and he had 13 carries for 142 yards on the night. He also led the Mats with four receptions for 58 yards.
Eastern Arizona took the lead in the first half with an impressive eight minute, 17-play drive that closed out the first quarter and opened the second. The Monsters used a triple option and a few timely penalties on AWC to rumble down the field. The Mats knocked EAC backward into third and goal from the 28, but Isaiah Esdale won a jump ball from quarterback Vicente Thompkins in the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
After the Mats went three and out, EAC churned out a 55-yard drive with only running plays. Quaderius Clemmons capped it with a quarterback keeper on the option for a five-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead with a little more than seven minutes to go in the half.
The Matadors finished with 178 rushing yards on 27 carries, and Bryce Perkins went 7-15 for 105 yards passing with three interceptions. Eastern Arizona ran for 171 yards on 52 carries, and Thompkins went 4-9 for 61 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
AWC heads to Tucson next week to take on Pima Community College. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm, and the game will be broadcast on 560 AM KBLU. The pregame show goes live at 6:50.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma. AWC leads the state in enrollment growth over the past 10 years and handed out more than 2,300 certificates and degrees in 2016-17.