Panthers step up in 28-6 win over West Mesa

Karl Schneider
kschneider@daily-times.com
  • Piedra Vista seniors Avery Norton and Elijah Gamboa recorded two TDs each in the homecoming win.
  • The Panthers' special teams came up with a blocked field goal and blocked punt.
  • PV notched interceptions from Gamboa and senior linebacker Aaron Simpson.

FARMINGTON — The Piedra Vista football team proved it can play in the 6A classification.

Piedra Vista's Avery Norton carries the ball against West Mesa on Friday at Hutchison Stadium in Farmington.

After a rough start to the game, the Panthers took control in the second quarter and rolled to a 28-6 win over West Mesa on homecoming tonight at Hutchison Stadium.

“It feels pretty good. We’ve been working hard, but we know we still have to step up our game,” said PV senior running back Avery Norton, who finished the game with two rushing touchdowns. “We tried not to let the distractions (with homecoming) get to us this week, worked hard, and that’s what we need to keep doing.”

Special teams played a key role in the Panthers’ win, coming up with a blocked field goal attempt and a blocked punt.

“The three phases of the game are offense, defense and special teams,” PV coach Jared Howell said. “We came up with a (field goal) block at a big time, and the punt block was a big one, too. We’re going to need all three of those phases to come around as we continue to progress through the season and get into district.”

After a forgettable first quarter for both teams, with four turnovers occurring during the first four possessions, PV gained control midway through the second quarter, scoring twice in a span of two minutes and five seconds.

Taking over at their own 38-yard line, the Panthers, led by quarterback Elijah Gamboa, marched down the field and scored on a 4-yard Gamboa carry to give PV a 7-0 lead with 5:35 left before halftime.

Piedra Vista's Elijah Gamboa looks for an open receiver against West Mesa on Friday at Hutchison Stadium in Farmington.

On West Mesa’s ensuing possession, Mustangs’ quarterback Domonic Fischer threw directly to Gamboa at cornerback for an easy interception at the West Mesa 27. A few plays later, the Panthers (5-0) were back in the end zone, this time on a 2-yard run by Norton to make it 14-0.

“Once we realized we needed to turn it up, we did, and it worked out,” Gamboa said of the Panthers’ slow start and turnaround in the second quarter. “We kind of got into our game, and stopped being a little nervous and hesitant.”

West Mesa (1-4) had a chance to cut into the deficit in the final minute of the second quarter with a short field goal, but PV’s Brandon Montoya came off the edge to block the attempt.

PV was back in the end zone early in the third quarter, thanks to an interception by senior linebacker Aaron Simpson. With the Mustangs driving, Simpson read the eyes of West Mesa’s Fischer, jumping the route and returning the pick about 50 yards to the West Mesa 2-yard line.

Piedra Vista's Talon Ball rushes the passer against West Mesa on Friday at Hutchison Stadium in Farmington.

Gamboa took the ball in for a TD on the next play.

The Panthers’ special teams came up with the blocked punt on West Mesa’s ensuing possession, giving the ball back to PV at the West Mesa 22. A couple of plays later, Norton broke through for his second score of the day, running it in from 15 yards out to make it 28-0 after a successful two-point conversion.

The 15-yard score marked Norton’s sixth rushing TD in the last two games and the third straight game with 100 yards on the ground.

“I have to give a shoutout to my linemen. They open up the holes for me, and I just make one cut and get up the field as fast as I can. That’s the story — be fast and physical,” Norton said.

Piedra Vista's Avery Norton carries the ball against West Mesa on Friday at Hutchison Stadium in Farmington.

West Mesa scored on fourth and 5 from the 12-yard line when Fischer connected with Gabriel Ramirez for the score with 8:42 remaining in the game.

Piedra Vista will play Manzano (2-2) on Oct. 1 in Albuquerque.

“We have to step it up in practice and take it up another notch,” Norton said. “I think that’s the key — that and conditioning. We have to keep up with the 6A teams. A lot of us play two ways, and conditioning is a big part of it.”

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