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Kings ruin Criminal party
Through the first 41 minutes of Yuma High's 5A Gila Valley Region showdown against Kofa, both star running backs were shut down by their opponents.
Then with 7:32 left in the game, Kofa's Timmy Lee went 64 yards off a sweep to the left side to give Kofa the lead for good in a 20-10 win, spoiling the Criminals centennial celebration and putting the Kings in control of their region destiny.
Starting with that run, Lee ran for 134 yards the rest of the game to finish with 200, while 6-foot, 310-pound junior David Ricci and the Kings' defensive line continued their domination of J.C. Baker, quarterback Donte Jackson and the Criminal offensive line to seal the win.
"It was huge," Kofa coach Kevin Moore said. "Except for the kickoff return by J.C., we effectively shut him down. He had one or two runs there, but just the push we got up front allowed us to shut down what they were trying to do."
Baker ran for 92 yards and was held under 7 yards on 19 of his 23 carries. He did return the kickoff to open the second quarter 95 yards for the Criminals' only touchdown and first-and-only lead at 10-7.
The gigantic junior Ricci had a lot to do with that, freeing up the other linemen and linebackers to rush the Criminals with four players or less and still be disruptive.
"We got some pretty good guys on our defense," Ricci said. "We just play hard, play smart."
After Lee's second touchdown - he opened the scoring with 9-yard run in the first quarter - Yuma (3-7 overall, 1-1 region) drove to the 17-yard line of the Kings (4-5, 2-0) when Lucky Castaneda crashed through the Yuma line, pressured Jackson and forced him to fumble while attempting a toss with no Criminals around him.
Kofa missed a 25-yard field goal on the ensuing drive, but held Yuma to a four-and-out and got the ball on the Crims 27. Alex Hazen later connected on a 25-yarder with 2:09 left to seal the win.
Fox said Kofa's defensive line dominated.
"They owned us, and I told our guys we lost this game the last three-years in the weight room," Fox said. "They were better than us up front."
And in addition to putting themselves in the Gila Valley driver's seat, Kofa also stole a win on a special night to the Criminals.
"If you were in the locker room, you'd see how much it hurts," Fox said. "It hurts cause it hurts the kids. I told them if that's the disappointment they have in their life, that's going to be a pretty good life."
Emotions were high on the other end as well, as Kofa fans stormed the field and the Kings celebrated.
"It feels great," Moore said. "Like I said, we circled this date on our calender way back in May. The kids have been talking about it since them. They couldn't wait for this game to come. It's a big win, but at the same time we have to get ready and re-focused on Cibola.
"Anytime its Kofa-Yuma, it's big," he said. "I know it's their 100-year anniversary and I hope they have a great time the rest of this weekend, but we wanted to win this game tonight. ... Now we're set up if we win again next week, we have an extra week to play."
Ricci said the role of spoiler was particularly sweet.
"To come in here and win this game, it's two years in a row for me," Ricci said. "This is really special.
"For me, it was coming in and ruining the 100 years thing," he said. "It's pretty amazing."
And for a battle pitting the two rival backs against each other, Lee said he was particularly pleased.
"Almost better than last year, cause they had a 100-year anniversary," Lee said. "J.C. told me he was better than, and I showed him up."
Yuma plays next week at San Luis, while Kofa travels to Cibola where a win earns the Kings a playoff berth.