Roughriders humbled on homecoming

Photo By L. Scott Bennett: Tyson Hawkins stretches out while attempting to get a first down. Hawkins and the Roughriders came up short against the Round Valley Elks, 44 – 6. 

By L. Scott Bennett

PIMA – It was a tough night for Pima as the Round Valley Elks came to challenge the Roughriders at Edd Hubbard Field on Friday night. It was homecoming for the Roughriders, and while the classes of ’78, ’88, ’98 and ’08 were in town to celebrate their reunions, Pima could not give the faithful a win as the Elks came out on top, defeating the Roughriders 44 – 6.

The game started with promise for Pima.  Receiving the opening kickoff, the Roughriders slowly and methodically moved their way down the field. Taking over 6 minutes off the clock, Pima moved the ball in five-yard chunks straight toward the end zone. As the Roughriders crossed into the red zone, however, the Elks tightened up their defense.  On the Round Valley 12-yard line looking at 4th-and-8, Round Valley stopped Pima with a turnover on downs.

Photo By L. Scott Bennett: Jake Whitaker stares down the defense.

The Elks took over and started moving the ball.  It would only take them four game minutes to hit the end zone.  With a minute left in the first quarter, the Elks were up 7 – 0.

The second drive of the night was not a great one for the Roughriders.  After starting in excellent field position when sophomore Edward Ibeh-Young returned the kickoff to the 46, Pima started moving backward.  Losing yardage on three plays, the Roughriders punted on 4th-and-25 from their own 31. There were two calls made by the officials Friday night that were not only controversial but not well received by the Pima fans.  The first was on the Roughriders’ punt.

After punting the ball downfield, the Round Valley return man fumbled the ball. Pima recovered the bobbled kick and appeared to retain possession by falling the ball at the Round Valley 29 yard-line. As the Pima offense was running back on to the field and the fans at Edd Hubbard Field were screaming with joy, the officials called back the play, explaining that there had been an “inadvertent whistle.” The referee stated that the whistle was accidentally blown in the play and the turnover would not stand.

Photo By L. Scott Bennett: Kaleb Blair gets pulled down from behind as he attempts to go outside.

It did not appear that a single player heard the mystery whistle, but the Roughriders not only were denied possession of the ball deep in Round Valley territory but forced to re-punt on 4th-and-25. This time Pima was not so lucky, stopping the Elks return at the 50. The Elks then scored on the very next play and took a 13 – 0 lead.

In a 44 – 6 game, it is impossible to say that one play would make that much of a difference, but one can only speculate if a tie game or even a 7 – 8 Pima lead in the second quarter would have inspired a different outcome than a 13 – 0 did.

Despite the disappointing call and the quick Round Valley score, Pima bounced back. On its next possession, the Roughriders moved the ball right down the field. After big runs from senior Tyson Hawkins and sophomore Kaleb Blair, the Roughriders made it to the red zone.  On 4th-and-2 from the Elks’ 10 yard-line, senior QB Jake Whitaker found Ibeh-Young for a 10-yard TD pass.  With the score, Pima was not only on the board but back in the game at 13 – 6.

Photo By L. Scott Bennett: Jake Whitaker gets ready for the snap.

Round Valley would get one more touchdown with 12 seconds left in the first half.  The teams went into the locker room at halftime with a 20 – 6 score.

The second half was all Round Valley. The Elks scored three more touchdowns in the second half, while the Roughriders were unable to get back into the end zone.

While it had no impact on the outcome, there was additional officiating controversy late in the game. After the Roughriders held Round Valley to a 4th-and-goal from the Pima 11, the Elks lined up for a field goal. The kick, which was plenty long, appeared to be wide right.  The officials saw it differently and called the kick good, giving three points to Round Valley.  Other than the officials, all others in attendance saw the kick wide right.

Photo By L. Scott Bennett: The Pima Marching Band is led onto the field at halftime.

Regardless as to whether the kick was good or wide, the Elks had all the points they would need and would finish the game with a decisive 44 – 6 win.

After the game, Pima head coach John Bryant was disappointed in his some of the play of his squad but remained positive.  Acknowledging that the Elks had outplayed his Roughriders, he appreciated how hard his team fought, even after the outcome had been determined.

Coach Bryant was also complimentary of some individual efforts.

“I think I have a really good receiver, I think Edward Young is a top-notch receiver,”  Bryant said. “I think my guys played hard.”

Photo By L. Scott Bennett: Pima will face Round Valley in Eagar this Friday in the opening round of the 2A State Playoffs.

When asked about the playoffs, Bryant explained, “We have a really tough schedule.  We have played all the top teams.  Truthfully, I think we have the toughest schedule of anybody.  We didn’t have any easy games this year, but we did the best we could.”

The Roughriders were selected as the 14 seed in the 2A playoffs seed and will travel to Eagar to take on the same No. 3 Round Valley Elks.  Kickoff will be Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. In reference to the playoffs, Coach Bryant said, “we’ll get ready to play and do everything we can to win the game.”

Fans are hopeful see the Roughriders shock the Elks and get some payback for Friday’s beatdown.