Pima opens conference play by blowing out Tanque Verde

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima quarterback Seth Russell throws a touchdown pass to Leland Thompson early in the first quarter. Pima defeated Tanque Verde 43-0 on Friday night.

By Jon Johnson


PIMA – The Pima Roughriders (2-1) opened conference play by dominating the visiting Tucson Tanque Verde Hawks, 43-0 at Edd Hubbard Field on Friday night.

“After last week, we tried to come away and let the boys know the effort they gave was a championship-type effort,” said Pima head coach Josh Wilkins. “You know, the score didn’t reflect it. So, we wanted to come out tonight and show people that we really do mean business. We played a really tough game last week and we needed to make a statement tonight and I feel we came out and did that.”  

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

Pima took advantage of Tanque Verde turnovers and punts to have an average starting field position in Hawks territory. The Roughriders started the game with six consecutive touchdowns to initiate the Mercy Rule running clock with 5:24 left in the second quarter.

The Roughriders relished the return of Wyatt Wiltbank from injury, and the running back punished the Hawks’ defense with pounding runs all night. The Ying to Wiltbank’s Yang, Hayden Blair zigged and zagged around the trees all night as one of Pima’s speedsters, and whenever they needed a few yards, it was smash mouth football with quarterback Seth Russell and a head of steam behind a stampede of Roughriders.  

Conversely, Tanque Verde’s offense was thoroughly vanquished, putting up three turnovers and six punts. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Wyatt Wiltbank dishes out punishment to Hawks who attempt to tackle him.

The first offensive play of the game was an omen for the Hawks as the running back failed to negotiate a poor pitch from the quarterback and Sam Ray recovered to give Pima the ball in the Red Zone. 

Four plays later on 4th and 7 from the 15, Wyatt Wiltbank took the pitch and followed a wall of Roughriders around the left side for the TD and Pima was up 7-0. 

Tanque Verde’s second possession was arguably its best of the game and the Hawks moved the ball down the field with some good runs. However, after initially picking up a key fourth down, the Hawks were called for holding. After even more procedure penalties, Tanque Verde punted and they wouldn’t come that close to the end zone again for the rest of the game. 

Pima’s offense didn’t have any problem scoring on the ground or in the air. Seth Russell hit Leland Thompson for a 13-yard TD, and then Jaxon John faked the extra-point attempt and did a jump pass to Russell for 2 points. 

After a Jaxon John INT, Pima went back to the ground and Wiltbank took a reverse 34 yards to pay dirt, all before the end of the first quarter, 22-0. 

A blocked punt by Russell in the second set Pima up in the Red Zone again and Tuddy Smart took it 14 yards on the ensuing offensive play to put Pima up 36-0.   

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Tuddy Smart tackles a Tanque Verde runner.

With the blowout, Pima’s reserves got more playing time than usual and they made the most of it. Backup quarterback Rhett Hughes rolled out in the second quarter and tossed a soft 20-yard TD pass to Pierce Ashby, who tipped it to himself before securing the football for the final touchdown. Jaxon John then hit his fifth extra point and with 5:24 second left in the second quarter, the Mercy Rule running clock went into effect.

“We had a few miscues on defense – a few missed blocks – but really there is nothing that I could really change about this game,” Wilkins said. “The guys just played their hearts out the whole first half and it was a great win . . . Good job Riders, that was awesome.” 

Pima will next travel to play at Scottsdale Christian (2-1) on Friday, Sept. 16, starting at 7 p.m. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Hayden Blair picks up big yardage on a sweep. The halfback had a big night in the backfield for Pima.

In other prep football action: 

In 3A, Tucson Pueblo defeated Safford 35-27. The Bulldogs (1-3) will next host Thatcher (3-0) on Friday, Sept. 16, starting at 7 p.m. 

In 1A, St. David defeated Duncan 52-0. The Wildkats will next play Friday, Sept. 23, at Baboquivari, starting at 7 p.m. 

Dishchii’bikoh defeated Fort Thomas 42-22 on Saturday. The Apaches will next host the Tempe Prep Knights on Friday, Sept. 16, starting at 7 p.m.