By JAIME HERNANDEZ
The Pima Community College football team took down perennial NJCAA powerhouse Snow College 21-14 on Sept. 14.
After going down 14-0 early in the first half, Pima scored 21 unanswered points to pull off the upset. The Aztecs are now 2-2, surpassing their win total from last season.
“Our kids just hung in there all night,” coach Pat Nugent said. “The biggest thing was we didn’t make any turnovers, and we always said that’s the biggest factor. Our kids played all the way ‘til the end.”
Sophomore Seth Ellis, a transfer from Scottsdale Community College, scored all three rushing touchdowns for the Aztecs, including a game-winning 11-yard run with 1:26 left in the game.
“We finally got Seth the ball, and he gave us the big plays we needed,” Nugent said.
Ellis, who played both offense and defense, said the team had a good week in practice.
“We bought into what the coaches were telling us this week,” Ellis said. “I knew if I did that, I would have a big game.”
His first touchdown came late in the second quarter from 27 yards out. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, he scored from 8 yards out to tie the game at 14-14.
Sophomore quarterback Jack Nykaza said Pima did a lot of things right against a very good team.
“We moved the ball faster and got the plays off faster, and our o-line played great,” Nykaza said.
The Aztec defense came to play as well. Sophomore linebacker Eddie Releford was a demon all over the field, batting down passes and making key tackles.
Pima must continue that level of play Sept. 21 to have any chance of beating Scottsdale Community College on the road.
“We’ve got to stop the pass,” Nugent said. “Scottsdale is going to come in and throw the ball 50 times a game, so we need to find a way to get to the quarterback.”
He hopes to build on the win over Snow to prepare for Scottsdale.
“We need to take the momentum from this great victory and apply it to another week of practice and get ready for them,” he said.
On Sept. 7, the Aztecs fell to Mesa Community College 41-20.
Pima showed fight in the first half. Freshman running back Kevionte Alexander got the Aztecs on the board with a 2-yard touchdown run during the first quarter.
From there, the wheels fell off the bus. The Thunderbirds outscored the Aztecs 29-14 in the second
“Overall as a team, we didn’t play very well,” Nykaza said. “Individually there was a couple of plays that were pretty good, especially on defense.”
The offense struggled the entire night to find its rhythm, managing just 230 yards. Mesa put up 530 yards.
The defense had a few bright spots. Two defensive backs, sophomore Mitch Fischer and freshman Isaac Chacon, each had an interception.
The Aztecs took a chance by playing a man-based defensive system. The plan worked well in the first half, as Pima held Mesa to 12 points. In the second half, though, Mesa to took advantage of the man coverage with crossing routes that allowed receivers to break open.
Pima played two quarterbacks during the Mesa game.
Sophomore Tyler D’Amore went 4-of-10 for 27 yards, and had two interceptions. Nykaza went 13-of-27 for 107 yards and threw one interception. Nykaza also rushed for 11 yards and scored a rushing touchdown.
“We couldn’t figure out what defenses they were running against our formations,” Nykaza said. “We
had a couple of drive killers. Just when we were getting things rolling, we put the ball on the ground or
threw an interception.”
The Aztecs will look to go above .500 for the first time in years when they travel to Scottsdale on Sept. 21 to play Scottsdale Community College.
On Sept. 28, Pima hosts Glendale Community College at 7 p.m. The game has been moved to Tucson High School, due to a scheduling conflict at Kino Stadium.
Sept. 21:@ Scottsdale CC, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28: Glendale CC, Tucson High, 7 p.m.