Story and Video By NARCISO THOMAS VILLARREAL
Photos by ED ADAMS and JAMES KELLEY
After defeating Phoenix College Nov. 13, the Pima Community College football team was finally able to bury two losing streaks that have lingered throughout the season.
The Aztecs (3-8, 1-7 Western States Football League) were able to tame the Bears for a second time this season with a 35-14 victory during a rare day game at Tucson Electric Park.
“It’s a long haul,” head coach Patrick Nugent said. “We were in a lot of football games and our kids played their butts off all year long, just couldn’t get a win. I’m just glad these guys can go out on a winning note.”
With the victory, the Aztecs snapped their seven-game overall losing streak and their 50-game WSFL losing streak.
“It’s what we’re trying to do at Pima,” Nugent said. “We’re trying to believe in accomplishments. It’s been a long battle taking over a program that was really low. We had a win at the beginning of the year to get their losing streak over and now we got a league win that’s no longer on our stats. Now we can move forward and get better here at Pima.”
Pima beat Phoenix 17-14 in the first game of the season, snapping its 29-game losing streak as well as its 48-game losing streak to college teams.
Except for a 63-2 win over semi-pro Verde Valley in 2007, Pima had not won since 2004 before the first win over the Bears.
In the Nov. 13 conference game, freshman quarterback Zander McKean connected with sophomore receiver Scott Campbell on the first snap for a 53-yard touchdown pass to give Pima the early advantage.
Pima’s defense and special teams were key factors in the win, providing points. The Bears scored one touchdown each half.
Pima defenders had three interceptions. Sophomore linebacker Ernesto Escarcega returned one pick 37 yards for a touchdown just before the half ended. Sophomore cornerback Nick Carlson and freshman defensive back Adrian Brahler each had an interception as well.
On special teams, the Aztecs blocked two punts. Carlson had one block and returned the other blocked punt for a touchdown.
“We’ve been writing it up,” Carlson said after the game. “(Special teams) coach (Christian) Vitale sent me off the edge. They’ve been sending me through the middle all season. Came off the edge, just got free and blocked it. That’s how we draw it up.”
On the offensive end, the Aztecs finished with 309 total yards of offense. McKean threw three touchdowns and went 11-14 for 138 passing yards.
The receiving game was led by Campbell, who caught two passes for a total of 66 yards.
The team gained 171 yards on the ground and was led by freshman signal caller McKean, who rushed for 59 yards on 14 carries.
“It’s really good that we won a game because we had our doubts,” Garcia said after being asked about breaking the WSFL streak. “It’s a good thing we had the whole Tucson community behind us. It’s really good that our coaches were there every step of the way.”
Garcia said that despite injuries and ineligibility issues, nobody on the team gave up. He said players still went to practice knowing that they might or might not play and that getting three victories on the season was good for them.
Sophomore defensive back Ricky Solomon finished the season ranked No. 12 in the National Junior College Athletic this year and garnered 67 return yards.
Nugent hopes the recent wins will help give the football program legitimacy.
“We got to get on the trail recruiting come Monday (Nov. 17) and hopefully kids believe in our program now and know what we’re trying to do,” Nugent said when asked about next season.
“We got a really good freshman class that we’re excited about. Now we got to add to it and come out hard, work all year and get better.”
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