There were plenty of fireworks in the air Friday night at Perry High School in Gilbert.
On the field, most of the fireworks didn’t show up until the fourth quarter, as visiting Mesa Westwood put a damper on Perry’s homecoming with a 16-15 victory in a 5A East Valley Region contest.
Two-way back Billy Sueing was the key performer for the Warriors. The junior scored both of Westwood’s touchdowns, caught a pass for the go-ahead two-point conversion, and also had a key interception in the third quarter.
The win put Westwood (3-2, 1-0) in a better position for a playoff run and demonstrated vast improvement from last season’s 2-8 squad.
“We’ve had one year to implement our system, and we’ve seen much better results this year,” said Westwood second-year coach Greg Mendez.
“The kids have put forth more effort in the offseason, and it’s starting to show.”
For Perry (4-1, 0-1) it was the first loss of the season, as it battled without 11 players who had been suspended for violating team rules.
Perry appeared to be in control of what had turned into a defensive battle. The Pumas took a 7-0 lead into the halftime break, thanks to a 14-yard touchdown run from quarterback Chase Richardson in the second quarter.
Both offenses struggled to open the third quarter, before Sueing picked off a pass from Richardson late in the third quarter. The turnover gave Westwood’s sideline a boost, while sparking life into the offense, which had struggled to that point.
“We started off horrible,” Mendez said of his team’s first-half performance.
“We just weren’t clicking, especially on offense, but in the second half our kids came out to play, and Billy came up big for us.”
Westwood’s offense finally responded, driving 63 yards in nine plays to finally get on the scoreboard. Sueing capped the drive with an 11-yard run. Quarterback Juan Zazueta (17 rushes, 64 yards) converted the two-point conversion to give Westwood the lead.
Perry responded on its next play from scrimmage, when tailback Darnell Tauren took a handoff up the middle on a 60-yard touchdown run. Tauren also caught the two-point conversion pass for a 15-8 lead. But Perry’s offense was stalled the rest of the game.
Sueing scored the final touchdown on a 7-yard run and caught the two-point conversion pass from Zazueta.
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Perry leads Westwood 7-0 at halftime. Pumas QB Chase Richardson scored the game's only TD on a run.
After Westwood goes ahead on a TD and a 2-point conversion, Perry scores on the first play after the kickoff and adds the 2-point conversion to go back on top 15-8. Tauren Darnell scored on a 60-yard run and added the 2-point reception.
Billy Sueing scores again for Westwood, this time from 7 yards out, and then adds the 2-point reception to give the Warriors a 16-15 lead in the fourth quarter.
It's now a final: Westwood 16, Perry 15.
Westwood (2-2) vs. Perry (4-0)
Time: 7 p.m.
Address: 1913 E. Queen Creek Road, Gilbert
Key matchup: Westwood’s defense vs. the playmaking ability of Perry quarterback Chase Richardson. The Warriors did an admirable job last week against talented Tucson High’s quarterback.
Key stat: Westwood hasn’t won consecutive games since early November 2007.
The intrigue: Perry has surprised by winning three games against established 5A-I and 5A-II opponents, but Westwood is the best team young the Pumas will have faced. Perry will be hurt by the suspension of 11 players earlier this week for breaking team rules.