WILLCOX — A stirring Willcox comeback was stymied by a final gift to Pima as the Roughriders collected the 28-24 victory in Friday night high school football.
The host Cowboys (1-1) overcame a 22-12 halftime deficit with two fourth-quarter scores, only to muff a punt with three minutes to go and hand Pima (1-1) the golden opportunity it needed to regain the momentum and grab the victory.
“It was tough to lose because we made it tough,” Willcox head coach Alonzo Highsmith said. “We didn’t do what we should have done early, and it cost us.”
Pima was set up at the Willcox 15-yard line after recovering a fumbled punt snap. Caleb Barlow ran for 14 yards to set up quarterback Teddy Rector’s game- winning 1-yard score with 2:51 remaining.
Pima survived one last Willcox drive that died on a fourth-down pass just past midfield.
“I thought that both of us fought hard, and it’s too bad somebody had to lose the game,” Pima head coach John Bryant said. “I’m really proud of my guys for coming back and winning once we got down.”
Barlow got the first touchdown in the game in less than a minute on a 55-yard scamper down the right sideline.
Willcox answered early in the second quarter as defensive tackle Jonathan Garcia scooped up Rector’s fumble and rumbled 20 yards for the score to draw to within 8-6.
Pima answered five minutes later as Rector connected with Kaleb Blair on a 40-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-6.
The momentum seesawed back to the Cowboys, who answered with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Kaiden Hall to Rico Lunt with 40 seconds left in the first half.
The Roughriders seized the momentum yet again by using the final 40 seconds to mount a quick score behind Blair’s 49-yard run to make it 22-12 at the half.
The host Cowboys failed to wilt, scoring two fourth- quarter touchdowns for the second consecutive game, matching what they did to win an overtime opener at Lordsburg, N.M.
However, after quarterback Hall’s second consecutive 2-yard scoring run to make it 24-22 for Willcox, the Cowboys failed to run out the clock and gifted the muffed punt that decided the game in favor of Pima.
“I think this win will do a lot, and I think that we’ll go on a little run here. I’m excited,” Bryant said.
“We just have to go regroup,” Highsmith said. “It’s tough, but we’ll be all right.”