Gilbert Perry nearly made it through three quarters of play and built a 34-point lead before having to punt the football away to Yuma Gila Ridge.
Had they not blocked the Hawks’ first punt of the game, the Pumas may have found themselves in a much tighter game.
The blocked punt was the first of three costly Gila Ridge errors that led to three quick Perry scores and put the visiting Pumas in the driver’s seat for a
54-35 win Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“We don’t mind traveling to Yuma,” Perry coach Preston Jones said, having beaten Yuma Kofa in town two weeks ago. “We did a lot of traveling last year with our independent schedule and got used to it, so they’ve learned how to stay focused.”
Perry (4-0) and Gila Ridge (1-2), both playing their first season of football with a senior class, appeared to be headed for a close game early. The Hawks led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter on Evan Stokes’
one-handed catch and run for a 16-yard touchdown.
The Pumas answered with a 16-play, 80-yard drive to regain the lead early in the second quarter.
But the blocked punt on Gila Ridge’s next drive gave Perry the ball at the 16-yard line to set up the first of Puma quarterback Chase Richardson’s four rushing touchdowns. The Hawks fumbled away the ball deep in their own territory on their next two possessions, and the Pumas converted the turnovers into TDs for a 34-7 halftime lead.
“They took it to us,” Gila Ridge coach Jay Denton said. “We gave them the opportunity, and they jumped on it and we couldn’t come back quick enough.”
Richardson rushed for just 43 yards overall, scoring on runs of 1, 2, 11 and 5 yard. He also threw a pass to Drake Davis over the middle that went 70 yards for a touchdown. Kyle Howard also had two touchdowns in the second half for Perry.
“Defensively, that first drive wasn’t so good, but we buckled down and played well and a lot of kids got to play tonight,” Jones said. “We got a couple good receivers and our offensive line is growing up, so Chase is getting a lot of help.”
Statistically, the Hawks kept pace with the Pumas on the ground. Kelvin Harold rushed for a game-high 91 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and Stokes’ second TD of the night came on a 67-yard run. Three of Gila Ridge’s touchdowns came in the fourth quarter against Perry’s second-team defense as Harold, Carlton McConnell and Kirk Dunn all scored on short-yardage carries.
“We gotta learn to play more consistent to stay in the game,” Denton said. “The effort was good; we just got a bit flustered, I guess.”