ONLINE EXTRA: Football shows promise despite losses

By Narciso Thomas Villarreal
Photo by Ed Adams
Scottsdale Videos by James Kelley

The Pima Community College football team has lost three games in a row, but that includes a close call to an undefeated team and a deceiving score against the preseason No. 1 ranked team.

The Aztecs (2-4, 0-3 Western States Football League) lost their third consecutive game after being beat 32-13 by the No. 8 Arizona Western College Matadors on Oct. 9 at home. Pima was close early on, but Western pulled away in the second half.

“That’s a great football team we just played, and I thought our kids gave every ounce of effort they could,” head coach Patrick Nugent said after the game. “We just fell a little bit short tonight.”

The Aztecs struck first after sophomore defensive back Michael Holloway intercepted the ball and took it 11 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.

The first half ended with Pima trailing 18-7.

Pima would only muster six more points after sophomore running back Auburá Taylor had a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

“It was good to finally get back there,” Taylor said. “I ain’t been starting back there all year. Our starter went down. I felt like it would be a big chance to step up there and definitely make a big play and keep the team in it.”

Taylor had 107 total punt return yards in four attempts. He also had four kickoff returns totaling 101 yards.

“I think we can definitely make some big plays,” Taylor said about the team’s overall performance on special teams. “As long as they keep kicking it to me, I’m going to do the best I can.”

Pima’s special teams also prevented AWC from scoring a two-point conversion and blocked two point-after-touchdown attempts.

The Aztecs’ true freshmen pair of quarterbacks threw for 80 passing yards in total, with Zander McKean taking most of the snaps.

McKean went 7-20 for 75 yards. He was picked off once and sacked twice.

Zach Schira completed one pass in six attempts worth five total passing yards. The Matadors intercepted two of his passes and sacked him five times on the other hand.

“We definitely had a chance in that ball game,” Schira said. “They were a hell of a football team. They’re big, they’re strong and they’re fast. We were real close. We got a few breaks here and there. We minimize a couple mistakes, and we’re right in that ball game.”

Ricky Solomon

Pima rushed for 65 total yards with freshman receiver Ty Minkin leading the team with 34 yards in three carries. Sophomore running back Andy Garcia finished second with 28 yards in six carries.

“We moved the ball,” Nugent said. “We just had some mess-ups down in their zones. We just couldn’t put it in the end zone.”

Nugent said he thought the team got some decent yardage, but they just couldn’t score.

Pima had 80 total receiving yards with sophomore receiver Scott Campbell making four catches worth 41 yards.

As of Oct. 11, Western is ranked third in the National Junior College Athletic Association in total team defense.

The Matadors had 366 total yards of offense in the game. AWC is also ranked seventh in the NJCAA in total team offense.

Pima had two interceptions in the game, including one by sophomore defensive back Ricky Solomon, who leads the team this season with four.

On Oct. 2, the Pima football team overcame an early 14-0 deficit to Scottsdale Community College but couldn’t hold on to their brief lead on a rainy night.

The Aztecs fell to the then undefeated Fighting Artichokes 26-20 at home. Scottsdale quickly jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but PCC soon answered back.

“Another tough loss two weeks in a row,” Nugent said after the SCC game. “We gave up points early.”

Pima freshman running back Damion Bracy scored a 33-yard rushing touchdown to get Pima on the board in the second quarter. The Fighting Artichokes struck back instantly though.

Scottsdale blocked the extra point attempt and returned the ball 90-plus yards for two points to give the Fighting Artichokes a 16-6 lead.

The last time Pima played SCC at home, in 2009, the Aztecs missed three extra points and the Fighting Artichokes won on a last second field goal 35-32.

SCC was driving down the field in the last minute of the first until sophomore linebacker Justin Kitchen got an interception.

“I just read it and cut across in front of him and picked it off,” Kitchen said. “I tried to return it like Reggie Bush.”

In the third quarter, McKean threw an 86-yard touchdown pass to Campbell. This time the extra point was good, and the third quarter ended with Scottsdale leading 16-13.

“We battled back. It was a great comeback for our guys to get out,” Nugent said.

In the fourth quarter, Pima took its first lead after Schira threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Minkin. The score was 20-16 after the extra point.

Zach Schira

Scottdale came back by scoring a touchdown and a field goal that put them up 26-20.

“We gave up a bad touchdown in the fourth quarter,” Nugent said. “We just can’t figure out a way to find a win. We just got to keep battling.”

In the game, Pima had 277 total offensive yards, with 159 passing yards and 118 rushing yards.

McKean and Schira again split time behind the center. McKean went 3-10 for 94 passing yards while Schira went 4-10 for 63 passing yards.

Schira lead the Pima rushing game with 62 yards in eight carries. Bracy finished the game with 37 rushing yards in three carries.

Campbell led Pima in receiving with 99 yards in four catches.

On the defensive end, Pima allowed 415 yards.

Pima’s Solomon had two interceptions and six solo tackles. Kitchen also had four solo tackles.

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