There wasn't much Preston Jones could say.
The Perry football coach saw his team's defense surrender 322 yards rushing and five touchdowns to Glendale Mountain Ridge running back Zach Miiller, and that was before, during and after Perry lost starting quarterback Austin Nightingale to a left knee injury.
Breaking tackles, bouncing off defenders and sometimes dragging Perry kids along for the ride, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Miilller ran for an (unofficial) school-record 322 yards and five touchdowns on 22 carries in a 45-26 win over Perry on Thursday night.
Miiller who missed two games this season with a concussion but returned to action last week against Highland - finally left the field for good with three minutes left in regulation after tweaking his ankle on a rare play that went nowhere. His jersey dirtier than most and an ice pack on his foot, the 5-foot-7, 180-pounder limped his way to the bus after plowing through and running around the Perry defense.
But Miiller's legs - along with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Robert Limmer to Austin Cottrell in the second quarter - kept Mountain Ridge's offense on the field most of the night as the Mountain Lions (2-3) snapped a three-game losing streak.
"The guys up front got it started," Miiller said of his offensive line. "They were great, and all I had to do was make some cuts and keep the legs moving."
With a difficult upcoming schedule and his team's inconsistent first half of the season - offensively and defensively - the Pumas didn't immediately know the severity of Nightingale's injury, only that he left the field on a golf cart at halftime after taking a big hit near the sidelines while trying to run out of bounds in the final seconds before intermission. He was on crutches after the game.
The Pumas spent the week preparing for variations of the Wing-T offense they'd seen on film from Mountain Ridge, but the Mountain Lions' return to health and its otherwise ineffectiveness the past couple weeks caused them to scrap the Wing-T, and it proved wise on this night.
"Their running back is pretty good, he's hard to handle, but our tackling was horrible," Jones said.
Perry tried to keep pace in the second half behind a faster-tempo running game and significant contributions from backup quarterback Alec Monte (touchdown passes to Lane Veach and Sean Hams in the second half) and tough running by Anthony Sheffield and Aaron Ratliff. The Pumas went on a run-only, six-minute drive to begin the third quarter, but a false start penalty led to only a field goal by Mitchell Albrect.
A minute later, Miiller ripped off a 56-yard touchdown run to make it 35-13.
Again, Perry came back down the field with a run-heavy attack, and Monte hit Veach from 18 yards out to pull Perry within 35-20 to close the third quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Miiller ran 71 yards for his final touchdown and a 42-20 lead.
The Mountain Lions never trailed in the game, and two Perry fumbles in the first half helped Mountain Ridge build a two-touchdown lead early which grew to 28-10 at halftime.
"Good teams don't do that," Jones said of the turnovers.
Nightingale had a 6-yard touchdown run before his injury, and finished with 117 yards passing in the first half. Veach (Stanford commit) saw lots of time at outside linebacker and had four catches for 68 yards, including the touchdown. Sheffield ran for 77 yards and Ratliff added 57 yards for Perry, which will need to lick its many wounds quickly because Basha, Highland, Chandler and Hamilton are four of its five October opponents.
"We'll be ready to play," Jones said. "It doesn't get any easier."
Mountain Ridge 45, Perry 26
First Downs: MR 18, Perry 21
Rushing: MR 29-283, Perry 52-200
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Yds-TD-INT): MR 7-11-67-1-0, Perry 11-24-143-2-0
Fumbles: MR 2-2, Perry 2-2
Penalties: MR 7-65, Perry 4-35
MR - Zach Miiller 8 run (Logan Besore kick)
Perry - Austin Nightingale 6 run (Mitchell Albrect kick)
MR - Miiller 42 run (Besore kick)
MR - Miiller 1 run (Besore kick)
Perry - Albrect 27 FG
MR - Austin Cottrell 56 pass from Robert Limmer (Besore kick)
Perry - Albrect 27 FG
MR - Miiller 56 run (Besore kick)
Perry - Veach 18 pass from Alec Monte (Albrect kick)
MR - Miiller 71 run (Kimberly Acosta kick)
Perry - Sean Hams 8 pass from Monte (pass failed)
MR - Billy Evans 32 FG
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.