FARMINGTON — The Piedra Vista football team made a strong statement in its district opener.
The Panthers ran for 255 yards and the defense forced five turnovers as PV celebrated homecoming with a 26-0 victory against Kirtland Central on Friday night at Hutchison Stadium.
"We had momentum coming in from Pius and had a great week of practice. Today, we utilized all our players and everyone stepped up and played their part," said PV's Beau Clafton.
Clafton ran for 107 yards on 12 carries and added 51 more yards receiving on four receptions, but he was helped out in the running game by Ryan Rino and Jose Ramirez who combined for 117 yards in the Panthers' win.
PV head coach Jared Howell was impressed with the way his team ran the ball against a solid Broncos' defensive line.
"That's the biggest front we've seen. Credit to Kirtland, they are big and long on the ends," Howell said. "They made our job tough. We had a tough time moving it against a tough front. I think we did a good job, though."
Broncos head coach Kevin Graham said if it wasn't for the performance of his defense, the game would have gotten out of hand in a hurry.
"I'm proud of the defense. They hung in there and showed a lot of heart, because we were inept on offense," Graham said. "They kept us in it, otherwise it would have been a blow out a lot earlier."
PV (6-2 overall, 1-0 District 1-4A) held the Broncos (6-2, 0-1) to just 142 total yards in the game and had five inceptions, including two from Nick Varley.
The Panthers' success came from holding Kirtland's two big offensive weapons in check.
Running back Keishaun Aspaas was limited to 55 yards on 15 carries while tight end Christian Mackey caught just three passes for 31 yards.
"Getting that goose egg was awesome," said PV quarterback Isaiah Valdez. "Mackey is a big boy and is their go-to guy, but we read our keys and executed our game plan. We just did our job."
The Panthers set the tone right off the opening kickoff, driving eight plays, seven of which were runs, for 65 yards in just under three minutes, capped off by an 8-yard touchdown run by Valdez to get a 6-0 lead.
Both defenses settled in after the opening score until the middle of the second quarter when Ramirez capped off a 55-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown run to give PV a 12-0 heading into halftime.
Piedra Vista's defense took control of the game out of the locker room with an early interception of Jacob Flack.
Clafton scored a touchdown on a 41-yard run two plays later to give PV a 19-0 lead with 7:38 left in the third quarter.
The three-score deficit forced Kirtland to throw the ball more than they would have liked, and the Panther secondary took advantage, intercepting the KCHS quarterbacks three more times.
Neither Rashaan Sorrelhorse or Flack could get much going for KCHS in the passing game, combining for 7-of-29 and 72 yards.
The final PV score came following a Sorrelhorse interception.
Valdez hit tight end Sean Reed on a 17-yard touchdown pass to give the Panthers a 26-0 lead with 10:23 left in the game.
Both teams will shift their focus to their upcoming district matchups as PV travels to Aztec (3-5, 0-1) while Kirtand will return to Hutchison Stadium to face Farmington.
Graham thinks the Broncos will give the Scorpions (7-1, 1-0) a fight if they can limit their turnovers.
"We've got to fix some things on offense. It's uncharacteristic of us to turn the ball over so many times," he said. "We've got to figure it out, or it will be a long district season for us. I know the defense will come and play. If we can take care of the football then you never know. We've got a shot."
PV knows Aztec will come in ready to play after a 37-0 blow out loss to FHS, and Valdez said PV will need to be ready if they want to compete for the district title.
"We've got one goal and that's to win the district championship," he said. "We're focusing on Aztec and we'll see how that goes."