FARMINGTON — If the Piedra Vista football team's win last week over San Juan, Utah, was good, Friday night's performance was nothing short of phenomenal.
The No. 5 Panthers not only picked up a win over one of the state's best programs, they did it in dominating fashion, toppling No. 3 Goddard 34-16 at Hutchison Stadium.
"I think this is probably our biggest win," PV head coach Jared Howell said. "Wins are hard to come by against them. It's a great win for the program, and it's great to have a start like we have. I'm happy."
Two big plays, one in the first half and one in the second, swung the momentum for the Panthers and played key roles in the victory.
After stopping the Rockets on their first possession of the game, Matt Gonzales fielded the Goddard punt at his own 15-yard line and took it 85 yards for a touchdown.
In the second half, after the Rockets put together a 65-yard touchdown drive that ate up 6:05 to start the third quarter and cut the PV lead to 20-14, Alex Shay picked off Goddard's Cameron Stevenson on the Rockets' next possession and returned the interception to the 1-yard line.
"It's one of those things you need to re-establish momentum," Howell said of Shay's interception. "That was a really, really big play in the grand scheme of things, because if they score and we don't, it's a different ball game, and we might not be walking out of here with a win."
PV scored on each of its first four possessions, getting field goals from Christian Chavez from distances of 31 yards and 50 yards.
The team's two touchdowns came in blurs with Gonzales' 85-yard punt return and quarterback Elijah Gamboa breaking a 72-yard touchdown run.
"Our assistant coaches put a great game plan together against a tough, tough defense," Howell said. "We have some weapons who were able to get through some holes that weren't very big and break some tackles that don't usually break. We were able to get some things done that we haven't been able to do in the past against a great football team."
The Rockets finished the half with a touchdown drive to make it 20-7, then came out in the second half with a long scoring drive to cut it to 20-14. But each time the Rockets (0-2) did something to get back into the game, the Panthers (2-0) responded.
After Shay returned his interception to the 1-yard line, Gamboa punched it in to push the PV lead to 27-14 with 2:37 left in the third.
"What the offense did was, they came back and answered," Howell said. "We told them the Goddards and Artesias of the world, the championship teams, they answer in critical situations and we were able to answer."
The two defenses held their own after the Gamboa score, and it wasn't until 3:34 remained in the game that PV's Scott Ramirez bullied his way into the end zone on a 4-yard run to put the game out of reach for the Panthers.
"The kids played their tails off," Howell said. "They earned that win."
PV will try to keep its record unblemished when it travels to Durango, Colo., next week to take on the Demons (2-0).