By CASEY MUSE JR
The Pima Community College football team finished the 2016 season Nov. 12 with a 37-32 home defeat to No. 9 ranked Mesa Community College.
The game was close throughout, with Mesa busting out of the gates to score first. The Aztecs answered right away on a 57-yard touchdown pass from freshman Justin Martin to freshman Jalen Edwards to tie the game.
The second quarter remained close as Martin answered another Mesa score with a 6-yard touchdown run. The Aztecs trailed 20-14 at halftime.
Pima had arguably its biggest play of the game on the first series of the third quarter.
The Aztecs forced a punt by Mesa that was blocked by sophomore Brandon Yamamoto and scooped up by freshman Logan Stewart for the game-tying score.
The momentum shifted another time as Mesa scored on its next two drives to take a commanding 34-20 lead.
Pima did everything it could in the fourth quarter, beginning with a 69-yard touchdown reception by sophomore Jeff Cotton to cut the lead to 34-26.
One final Mesa field goal was answered with a 7-yard touchdown by Martin.
The Aztec defense got a crucial stop on the next series to set up the offense with one final opportunity to win.
Pima showed plenty of heart during its final drive, earning a fourth-down conversion on another quarterback-keeper from Martin.
However, the drive stalled on a final deep ball attempt to Cotton. This forced the Aztecs to turn the ball over on downs one last time with three seconds left.
Martin finished the game with four total touchdowns, two passing and two rushing.
The final score did not read the way the Aztecs wanted but the team fought until the very end. That was the theme for this entire season.
Pima finished the 2016 season at 3-6 overall and 2-5 in WSFL/ACCAC conference play.
Cotton was selected first team All-WSFL/ACCAC and first team All-Region at wide receiver.
Sophomore Jordan Agasiva was named first team All-WSFL/ACCAC and first team All-Region as an offensive lineman.
Sophomore Kana’I Picanco was named second team All-WSFL/ACCAC and second team All-Region at linebacker.
Sophomore Paul Davis was selected second team All-WSFL/ACCAC and second team All-Region at defensive back.
“This was a disappointing season,” head coach Jim Monaco said after the Mesa game.
“However, we learned a lot throughout the season,” he added. “We were very young, we were hurt. We could have quit on the season but we didn’t and for that you have to be proud.”
Look ahead to 2017, Monaco said he’s excited to have an opportunity to come back and lead the program again.
Freshman defensive back Beau Griego also plans to return. “I’ll be back, excited for next season,” he said.