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Yuma High's defense comes up big in win over Kofa
Yuma High coach Tom Fox challenged his players to step up in their season finale against Kofa.
The defense responded.
The Criminals forced six King turnovers, including ones on all four Kofa drives in the second half, in a 14-0 win at Irv Pallack Field on Friday — the third straight win for Yuma High against its rivals.
“I met with the guys today to challenge them, personally and see what they could do for the team,” Fox said. “It's the last game they got. It's the one that's going to stick with them. I remembered the last game I played, they're going to remember the last game they played. We challenged them to make a play, and to have that many guys make a play — I was impressed.”
Yuma High (3-7) got its first touchdown early in the second quarter when Matt Arellano found Esau Quitnero on a deep streak, caught in stride and scored on the 66-yard pass.
Kofa (2-8) had a chance to tie the game, taking over on the Yuma High 14 after Cole Fritz blocked a punt. But a personal foul backed the ball up 15 yards, then Jacob Champion sacked Ben Contreras. The drive ended when the Kings decided to go for it on 4th-and-31 when the ball was snapped early and hit an unsuspecting Contreras in the helmet. It was recovered by Yuma's Andres Aguilar.
“We couldn't get any flow,” Kofa coach Kevin Moore said. “We'd get a few yards and we'd have a big play and good field position, then get a penalty or turnover. It just didn't click.”
The Criminals scored on their first possession of the second half when James Gomez plunged in from 5 yards out. On the ensuing drive, Kofa reached the Yuma 13 but moved backward to the 27 before Contreras was intercepted by Elder Dominguez. On the next Kofa drive, Champion came up with an interception.
“Our defense was spectacular,” Yuma High running back LuRue Odum said. “They stopped balls, they hit, they came hard. That's what they do.”
In the fourth quarter, Nate Jackson — just called up from the junior varsity team — got a pick and Jaime Arviso recovered a fumble in the last 90 seconds to seal the win.
“They made plays when they needed to make plays, that was the difference in the game,” Moore said. “And we didn't get our kids ready to play football. We didn't do a good job teaching the X's and O's and teaching the fundamentals of blocking and tackling.”
Both teams had their struggles this year, entering the game with only two wins each. But Fox said the intensity with which both teams came out is what makes the Yuma-Kofa rivalry what it is.
“To me, that's what makes it a rivalry,” Fox said. “It doesn't matter if we're 2-7 or playing for a city championship, that's what makes it so special is the kids get up and compete for it, look forward to it all year no matter what the records are. You've got to make the best you can with what you've got. This is what we had to play for, and we played hard and got them.”
The Kings were playing their first game since teammate Tracey Lewis died in an auto accident last week. Fox commended Moore and the Kings.
“They played with a lot of heart, a lot of emotion, a lot of class,” Fox said. “That's tough to do with everything that went on for them. And that's why you're proud to be a high school football coach. Even though they're not my kids, just to be associated with them in a game like this was pretty neat.”
The win gave Odum and the rest of the Yuma seniors a 3-0 mark in their time on the varsity team against their rivals, something which Odum said felt really good.
“To know I couldn't break a big run, it kind of bummed me a little bit,” Odum said. “But I'm so glad to be a Yuma High Criminal it's ridiculous.”