KIRTLAND — Piedra Vista struggled again with penalties and turnovers, but was able to overcome them to open the District 1-4A schedule on winning note against Kirtland Central.
The No. 4 Panthers received two rushing touchdowns from Isaiah Valdez and Stratton Waller as they defeated the Broncos 34-14 Friday night in Kirtland.
“Got a win, but we were undisciplined,” said PV head coach Jared Howell. “We had a lot of things I was real disappointed with — things that will get you beat. If we don’t get them corrected, then they will be a problem.”
The Panthers overcame over 100 yards in penalties and three lost fumbles to win, but the players know that those mistakes will have to be cleaned up with a showdown against Aztec just a week away.
“There were stupid mistakes on us, and we need to get over it,” said Valdez. “We’ll correct things next week and be prepared for Aztec. We have to learn our lesson and fix the little things as a team.”
With running back Beau Clafton sitting out after sustaining an injury against St. Pius X last week, the Panthers relied on Waller and Valdez to carry the load on the ground. Neither disappointed as Waller led the team with 105 yards on 26 carries. Valdez grinded out 103 yards on 16 carries.
“Our line did well, and we needed to step it up,” Waller said. “After that loss against Pius, it kind of took a toll, but we’re getting our game back and going to try to get back on a roll.”
Valdez got the PV (7-1, 1-0 District 1-4A) air attack going in the second half, throwing for 197 yards on 11-for-20 passing.
Jacob Armijo was Valdez’s primary target, catching five balls for 150 yards.
Kirtland Central head coach Kevin Graham thought his team showed more fight than they did after last week’s blowout loss against Bloomfield.
“I have no complaints about the effort,” Graham said. “They played all night and never gave up.”
Waller opened the scoring for the Panthers on a 20-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left in the first quarter. The extra point was no good after a low snap.
Kirtland (3-5, 0-1) got a big play from defensive lineman Christian Mackey to take a 7-6 lead. Mackey batted down a lateral, scooped it up and rumbled 60 yards for a score just over a minute into the second quarter.
Mackey, who forced another fumble in the game, was injured during the game but returned after missing some time. Graham said his presence was a boost to the team.
“It was nice to have him back. He’s a difference maker,” Graham said.
Kirtland’s lead didn’t last long, though, as Valdez scored from four yards out just four minutes later. Waller punched in a two-point conversion to give PV a 14-7 lead.
Waller scored again in the quarter, this time from a yard out on 4th-and-goal, as the Panthers took a 21-7 lead into halftime.
After a quiet third quarter, Bryson Martinez scored on an end around from four yards out 14 seconds into the fourth quarter to give PV a 28-7 lead.
Valdez put the game away with his second touchdown run of the game with eight minutes left to play. The score was set up by an 83-yard pass from Valdez to Armijo.
The Bronco offense got its first touchdown of the game when running back Jerrid Smith hit Davidson Wyatt on a 40-yard touchdown pass with 7:11 left in the fourth, but Kirtland couldn’t get any closer.
The PV defense held the Kirtland offense in check for most of the game, limiting the Broncos to just 101 yards rushing on 33 carries and 70 yards passing while forcing four turnovers.
Piedra Vista will now turn its attention to Friday’s home game against Aztec, while Kirtland will host Farmington.
“Aztec is always a tough team, no matter their record,” Waller said. “It will be a good game. We’ll both play our hardest and hopefully we’ll win.”