FARMINGTON >> Piedra Vista may not have played its best football on Friday night, but the Panthers found a way to win in dramatic fashion.
Piedra Vista hosted Miyamura in the season opener for both teams on Friday at Hutchison Stadium. The game was delayed more than 30 minutes due to lightning, and it played late into the night as both teams went back and forth throughout the game.
Trailing 30-24 with just a little more a minute and 30 seconds to play in the game, senior quarterback Isaiah Valdez led the Panthers down the field on an eight-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a 13-yard touchdown pass to Beau Clafton to tie the game at 30. Clafton would tack on an extra point to give Piedra Vista a 31-30 victory.
"It was nerve-wracking for sure," Valdez said of the final drive. "We settled down and got into a flow. We executed and found a way to win. The score doesn't look pretty, but a win is a win, and I am proud of it."
Valdez said he had all the confidence in the world that Clafton would come down with the pass as Valdez rolled to his right and zipped a pass right over two Miyamura defenders.
"It felt like time slowing down," Clafton said. "I just saw the ball come in from (Valdez's) hand and everything was just routine because we practice it."
Clafton said he felt no nerves turning around and kicking the go-ahead extra point just a minute after catching the game-tying pass.
"I have been a varsity player for three years, and you kind of learn from the older guys as you come along," he said. "I had a feel for the situation and didn't get too excited."
PV's final drive looked like it might come to an end as the Panthers faced a 4th-and-17 situation after a penalty gave PV 1st-and-31 earlier in the series. A Valdez pass fell incomplete on fourth down, but a pass interference call on Miyamura gave the Panthers another chance.
"That was a relief. Anytime you get a flag to keep a drive going, especially in that kind of situation, it is a great feeling," Valdez said.
PV had plenty of their own mistakes. Three different long Clafton touchdowns were called back on penalties by PV's offensive line.
The Panthers also turned the ball over on a fumble in the first quarter and committed a costly safety late in the fourth quarter that gave Miyamura life as they trailed just 24-22. PV also had a punt blocked in the game deep in its own territory.
"We really shot ourselves in the foot several times. We have work to do," said PV head coach Jared Howell. "We got away with a game. We still found a way to win, and that is the positive thing. The real cool thing is the kids showed composure on that final drive. They could have dropped at any moment, but mentally they hung with it. It was great to win, but we still should have never been in that position."
Clafton had two rushing touchdowns in the game and one receiving. Valdez rushed for another touchdown as well.
Clafton also connected on a key 39-yard field goal with just over two minutes left in the first half.
Miyamura scored the first 13 points of the game, but PV answered with 17 unanswered points.
Miyamura quarterback Josiah Shank was 9-for-15 passing with two touchdowns to Jared Meese.
Piedra Vista has a week to regroup before facing Grants at home next Friday.
"We definitely have some kinks to work on fixing this week," Valdez said.John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.