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Late TD run by Hazlett lifts Shamrocks
Senior running back Kody Hazlett had three and a half minutes to save the world for the defending Division V champion Yuma Catholic.
Turned out he needed only 47 seconds.
After River Valley tied the game on a late 50-yard touchdown pass, the Shamrocks scored two Hazlett carries later and held on for a thrilling 21-14 victory over the Dust Devils on Friday night at Ricky Gwynn Stadium.
Hazlett finished the night with 28 carries for 291 yards and three touchdowns — including the game-winning 71-yard score down the left sideline with 2:49 remaining in the game.
“When we needed it, Kody Hazlett stepped up,” Shamrocks coach Rhett Stallworth said. “He was playing hard in the first half, too, but we needed some of the surrounding cast to do their job. One man can’t win the game for us.”
Hazlett picked up 228 of his yards in a back-and-forth second half.
Both the Shamrocks (1-1) and the Dust Devils (0-2) played to a standstill in the first half, entering the locker room tied 0-0 — and the Shamrocks struggling to move the ball on offense and missing several tackles on defense.
“Effort isn’t necessarily the issue. It’s execution,” Stallworth said. “Mental toughness. We had some moments where we had them in bad positions and we botched the plays.”
Coming out for the second half, an onside kick by Yuma Catholic’s Marcos Perez was recovered for the Shamrocks’ Aaron Pena.
“We try and mix up our kicking game so we keep them on their toes,” Stallworth said.
The Shamrocks got on the board later that drive, when Hazlett took a handoff, bounced to the outside then cut back inside before breaking to the left pylon for a 21-yard touchdown. In the early part of the fourth, the Dust Devils were faced with a fourth-and-3 but sophomore back Brandon Long took a toss to the left side and got just enough for a first down. The following play, Donsel Seldon took a handoff up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown to tie it at 7.
With eight minutes left to go, the Shamrocks responded with a trick play to start the drive. Quarterback Jagan Cleary connected with receiver Ricky Hampton on a quick screen to the left side, and Hampton turned and tossed it down the field to a wide open junior receiver Andre Cabralles — but the throw was an inch too long. Then the Shamrocks turned to what they knew would work — giving the ball to their senior running back.
Hazlett responded by taking five carries for 77 yards on the drive, including a 46-yarder that helped set up the eventual one-yard touchdown run with 4:42 left.
River Valley responded quickly with a pair of runs by quarterback Derek Advocate before Advocate connected on a 50-yard bomb to 6-foot-3 receiver Matt Cronn down the left sideline for a touchdown.
“It’s a law of averages. You have a 6-5 guy going up against a 5-6 guy, at some point he’s going to catch the ball,” Stallworth said about Cronn, who was being covered by sophomore Carter Rodriguez.
The touchdown throw turned the momentum and gave the Shamrocks the ball with 3:36 left in the game.
“We got to score. That’s the only answer to it. We can’t lose. I just have to run hard,” Hazlett said about what he was thinking.
Taking over on the 23-yard line, Hazlett opened with a six-yard run before taking a handoff down the left side and, with the help of a key outside block by senior running back Grady Eldridge, took the ball 71 yards down the left sideline for the game winning touchdown.
“It showed that the line did what we were supposed to do,” senior lineman Glen Justice said.
“At that point, there was three minutes left, so we knew we had time to run the ball. We were going to live and die with Kody and the O-line at that point and try and grind the clock,” Stallworth said. “It just happened a little sooner than we thought.”
The Dust Devils had one last chance but turned the ball over on downs when another deep throw to Cronn fell to the grass. Hazlett added another 25-yard run before the Shamrocks took a knee to seal it.
Yuma Catholic hasn’t started the year 0-2 under Rhett Stallworth and hasn’t since 2005. After the Dust Devils tied it late, Hazlett admits, there was a determined focus on the sideline to make sure the Shamrocks didn’t drop their second straight game this year, either — with some help from a long touchdown run.
“There was a sense of urgency to score,” Hazlett said. “I didn’t think I was going to break a long one. It just happened.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson