Panthers vanquish Demons with 24-12 victory

Karl Schneider

FARMINGTON — Piedra Vista stuck to the basics and cruised to a 24-12 win over Durango, Colo., tonight at Hutchison Stadium.

Piedra Vista's Brandon Montoya runs the ball during a game against Durango, Colo., on Friday at Hutchison Stadium.

On defense, the Panthers held the Demons without a first down on their first four possessions.

“We were just trying to play fundamental defense,” PV senior linebacker Aaron Simpson said. “We wanted to man up the best we could — find our matchups, cover up our weaknesses as best we could and get after them.”

Like they have the past couple seasons, the Panthers wore down Durango’s defense with a heavy dose of running, led by senior Avery Norton. Although Norton never took the ball into the end zone, he was the one PV runner the Demons couldn’t stop, breaking tackles and carrying defenders for yards at a time to get the Panthers into the red zone.

“Avery is starting to find himself and get a runner’s rhythm. Being a running back, there’s a rhythm to it and he’s getting better every game,” PV coach Jared Howell said. “He’s a strong kid, has good vision, cuts well and I think he’s starting to come into his rhythm.”

Piedra Vista's Avery Norton runs the ball against Durango, Colo., on Friday at Hutchison Stadium.

The Panthers held Durango to three and outs on the Demons’ first three possessions, and PV found the end zone on its first two possessions to take an early 14-0 lead.

A bad snap on fourth down during Durango’s first possession put the ball in the end zone. Durango’s punter had to avoid a few tackles to prevent a safety, finally being tackled at the Durango 1-yard line. Two plays later, Brandon Montoya ran into the end zone to give PV an early 7-0 lead.

On their next possession, the Panthers drove 76 yards in 4:38, ending the drive with another Montoya score, this one coming on fourth and 2 from the 9-yard line.

After the two good drives to start the game, PV’s offense was held to back-to-back punts after going three and out on its next two possessions.

PV pushed its lead to 17-0 with 4:11 left before halftime. Senior linebacker Aaron Simpson set the Panthers up with great field position after intercepting Durango quarterback Peyton Woolverton and returning the pick to the Demon 28. After getting into the red zone, the Panthers’ offense stalled, setting up a 24-yard field goal from Christian Chavez.

Piedra Vista's Aaron Simpson (7) and Avery Norton (22) tackle Durango's, Jordan Shefferd during a game on Friday at Hutchison Stadium.

Durango’s offense finally picked up a first down on its fifth possession of the night when Max Hyson broke a 48-yard run to get to the PV 14-yard line. Howell blamed his team for that play.

"When you’re not fundamentally sound people will gash you,” Howell said of Hyson’s run. “We had one linebacker make a bad read. It just shows how close you can be to giving up a big play when you think you’re in control.”

Three plays later Hyson broke through the PV defense for a 5-yard touchdown run.

On the ensuing kickoff, Durango’s Kaleb McMunn stripped the ball from PV’s Montoya and scampered into the end zone to make it 17-12 late in the second quarter.

On PV’s next possession, Elijah Gamboa was hit hard on a quarterback keeper and fumbled. Durango recovered at the Panther 48-yard line, but on the first play Woolverton coughed up the ball, giving PV back possession at its own 40-yard line.

The Panthers drove down the field to set up a 37-yard field goal attempt for Chavez, but the junior missed wide right, sending the game to halftime at 17-12.

Piedra Vista's Avery Norton (22) dives for a loose ball during a game against Durango, Colo., on Friday at Hutchison Stadium.

After a scoreless third quarter, PV found the end zone on a 14-yard run by Gamboa to push the lead to 24-12 with 10:35 remaining.

The Panthers will host longtime rival Aztec next week at Hutchison Stadium.

“We’re glad we got the win, but we need to move on from here,” Simpson said. “We need to have a great week of practice and get ready for Aztec.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.