TUCSON, Ariz. – Big plays pushed the Arizona Western football team past Pima on Saturday night. When the top-ranked Mats needed it, the offense scored and the defense forced turnovers and got stops. It added up to a 34-17 win that was closer than the score indicates.
AWC (2-0 overall, 1-0 Western States Football League) needed one of those plays early in the fourth quarter. The Mats were up 20-17, but Pima (1-2 overall, 0-1 WSFL) had just marched down the field on an 18 play drive only to miss a field goal. AWC’s offense stalled and had to punt, sending the defense back out there. AWC defensive back Jordan Ellis intercepted a deep ball from Jordan Maniteragi at the Pima 47 that breathed some energy back to the Mats.
The offense proceeded to move down the field with help from two Pima penalties, and Bryce Perkins rammed it home on third and goal from the two. His touchdown put the Mats up by two scores, 27-17 with 10:16 to play.
The defense wreaked havoc from that point on. Pima went punt, turnover on downs, interception, interception on its final four possessions. Matador linebacker Mar’Quess Daniels returned an interception for a touchdown that proved to be the final score, and Ellis picked up his second pick with six seconds left in the game.
At the start of the game, the Matador offense stomped down the field for a touchdown to set a strong tone. Perkins whipped a pass to Jaron Woodyard for an eight-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Pima punted on its first possession, but Pima picked off Perkins on the following third down. The return put the Aztecs at the Matador 29 yard line, and Maniteragi immediately took advantage. On first down, he ran a play action fake and found Ronson Young wide open up the seam for a 29 yard touchdown. Coby Oswalt missed the extra point, and the Mats led 7-6 with 5:34 left in the first quarter.
After the Mats punted, Pima chewed up 5:36 on a 15 play drive that finished with a 24 yard field goal by Oswalt early in the second quarter. It put the Aztecs up 9-7.
Both sides traded punts and fumbles before the Mats took over at the Pima 42 with 7:18 to go in the half. The offense took to the air to do the bulk of the damage, and Perkins lofted a fade to Steffon McKnight for a nine-yard touchdown and a 13-9 lead (after a missed extra point) with 3:08 left in the half. The score stayed that way until halftime. Perkins finished the game 11-19 for 154 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions to go along with one rushing touchdown.
Out of halftime, Pima punted, and AWC’s offense marched down the field quickly. Four straight Greg Bell III runs put the team at its own 46. Perkins roped a pass down the field to a streaking Woodyard for a 54 yard touchdown and a 20-9 lead, but Pima wasn’t going to go away.
The Aztecs answered with a nine play drive aided by three straight Matador penalties. Clayson Conrad ran the ball in for a two-yard touchdown, but Oswalt missed another extra point to keep the Matador lead at 20-15.
AWC went three and out on its next possession, and a bad snap on a punt went out the back of the end zone for a Pima safety. The points cut the Matador lead to 20-17. Pima then marched down with an 18 play drive, but Oswalt missed a 29 yard field goal. That set the stage for Ellis’ interception a few possessions later.
Bell led the Matador ground game with 27 runs for 110 yards, and Woodyard hauled in two touchdowns on nine catches for 129 yards.
The Mats have a bye next week before hosting Eastern Arizona on Saturday, September 23. Kick-off is set for 7:00 pm at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Tickets are only $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and military members. Children 12 and under and AWC students and staff (with current school ID) get in for FREE!
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.