Photo By Scott Bennett: Caleb Barlow (33) attempts to tackle a Willcox runner. The Cowboys defeated the Roughriders, 24-14.
Pima drops the ball against Willcox
By Scott Bennett
PIMA – The Pima Roughriders slid to 0–2 after a 24-14 loss to the Willcox Cowboys on Friday night at Edd Hubbard Field in Pima. Despite the loss, and having to overcome multiple turnovers, Pima played hard the entire game and proved there is much to build on in the coming weeks.
It could be argued that Pima was not defeated by the Cowboys, but by the Roughriders themselves. Mental errors, lack of focus and turnovers cost the Roughriders the game. The one obstacle that Pima could just not get past was the dreaded turnover. With four turnovers, the Roughriders just could not dig out of the hole they got in early in the game.
Pima received the opening kickoff to start the game. After the return man got the Roughriders to the 50, Pima coughed it up and Willcox took possession.
After Willcox found the end zone midway through the first quarter, on their ensuing possession Pima once again could not hold on to the ball. Fumbling the Cowboys kick, they turned the ball right back over to Wilcox on the Pima 24. Two plays after the turnover, the Cowboys were back in the end zone for their second touchdown of the first quarter.
Pima’s next possession was not much better as once again the Roughriders’ offense could not hold on to the ball. The first play of the drive, the Roughrider back lost the handle and Willcox came up with it. In Pima’s first four possessions they fumbled the ball away three times.
The Roughrider offense seemed to settle in during the second quarter. With flashes of brilliance, the Pima offense could not get into the end zone the first half of the game but did show that there is a lot of talent on the field. After a delayed handoff from junior QB Brennon Hughes to senior Jake Whitaker, the Roughriders started moving the ball. While the drive stalled, the play was effective and showed a creativity to the play calling and preciseness in execution that illustrated the potential of this Roughrider offense.
The second half started with a lengthy and ultimately successful drive for the Willcox Cowboys. After taking nearly five minutes off the clock, Willcox’s AJ Fuentes pulled in a 4-yard TD pass giving the Cowboys an 18–0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Pima loyal, Willcox was not done scoring. After another sustained drive taking several minutes off the clock, the Cowboys hit the end zone one last time to make the score 24–0 early in the fourth quarter.
Pima was not done, and for the fans who may be disappointed about an 0-2 start, they can sleep better at night witnessing the heart of this Roughrider squad. Down by four touchdowns and with less than a quarter to play, Pima dug in and made a game of it.
After forcing a Cowboy fumble, Pima had the ball deep in Willcox territory. Again, the ingenuity of the Pima play calling was illustrated for the fans. QB Hughes pitched the ball to a sweeping Whitaker, who beat the defense around the corner and took it in for a 15-yard TD run. While the 2-point play was no good, Pima was on the board.
Shortly after the Pima score, the fans in the stands were reminded that the game can be dangerous. Willcox’s junior running back Caiden Hall was injured as he tried a sweep around the corner. Going down hard as he was hit by three Roughriders, Hall appeared to sustain a neck injury. After a nearly 20-minute delay, Hall had a neck brace placed on him and was moved into an ambulance, which had come on to the field. Hall was speaking and moving his arms and legs. In speaking with his mother, who gave her consent to report on her son’s condition, she explained that Caiden was ok and that the ambulance and neck brace were precautionary.
Once play resumed, Willcox punted the ball to Pima, which started a drive from its own 48. After a 27-yard run from Whitaker moved the Roughriders deep into Cowboy territory, Hughes found sophomore Kaleb Blair for an 18-yard TD pass. The 2-point conversion was good, and the Roughriders had pulled to within 10 at 24–14.
Unfortunately for Pima fans, their hopes of a comeback came to an end after an unsuccessful onside kick and then when Hughes was picked off on Pima’s final possession. After the interception, the Cowboys were able to go into victory formation and end the game having defeated the Roughriders 24–14.
After the game, head coach John Bryant indicated that his defense played well, but the offense needs work. Explaining to his squad that “teams respect you when you play hard, don’t make mistakes and win.” It appears that he and the Roughriders are going to take the week to work on fixing the turnover problems as well as tightening up the offense.
While the Roughriders lost, they played hard and made a game of it well after the outcome appeared assured. While the score was not what Pima fans had hoped for, the Roughriders showed heart. That heart could translate into wins in the future.
Click here to see a photo album of the game.
Pima will next host the 2–0 Alchesay Falcons on Friday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.