Gila River Hawks soar to victory over Papago Pumas

The Gila River Hawks advanced to 2-0 on the season Saturday night with a 46-21 win over the Papago Pumas at home. It was a game with an uncharacteristically large amount of flags for the Hawks, but despite the lost yardage, the young men were still able to get the job done all over the field. 

“A lot of them know better. A lot of them were penalties we didn’t need to have. That’s embarrassing, but at the end of the day, it’s good to get a win and be able to go fix stuff,” Head Coach Ryan Felker said. 

It was a slow start to the game for both teams. Gila River was able to kick a field goal on the first drive of the game, putting them on top 3-0 with just under ten minutes left in the first quarter. Papago wasn’t able to do much on its first possession, forcing the Pumas to punt it back to the Hawks. 

Gila River was able to capitalize on the possession, with an 8-yard touchdown run coming from Michael Jamerson to extend the lead to 9-0 with 2:59 left in the first quarter. 

The Hawks’ defense was able to get a taste of the action, too. Pumas quarterback Kade Akers fumbled the ball into the end zone, where it was recovered by Brayden Flynn for a safety to make it 11-0 Gila River with 1:20 left in the first quarter. 

However, those would be the only points scored for the remainder of the half. Gila River’s defense was able to come up with a big interception just before the half to stop Papago from eliminating the goose egg on the board, coming from Jordin Parker at the goal line. 

“We had a ton of yards in the first half and only came out of it with 11 points. We weren’t finishing,” Coach Felker said. “They need to focus. They’re a lot better than this.”

Coming back out for the second half, Gila River seemed to have found more of a sense of a rhythm. The Hawks were attacking the ground game hard, where Jamerson picked up his second touchdown of the night on a 22-yard run with just under 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter. 

Parker had another interception on the next drive, getting the Hawks offense back out on the field, where quarterback Rhett Ricedorff had a one-yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown. The kick was good, putting the Hawks on top 25-0 with 7:23 remaining. 

After watching Parker snag two interceptions for himself, LaTrell Tellis wanted a taste, coming up with an interception of his own at the nine-yard line with just under two minutes remaining in the third. 

“Our defense is a bunch of dogs,” Ricedorff said. “They go out and they get it, and I love that.”

Ricedorff didn’t need much time to score, though, as a quick screen pass to Angel Ruiz resulted in an 86-yard touchdown, putting the Hawks on top 32-7. 

It wasn’t until the start of the fourth quarter that Papago was finally able to reach the end zone and erase the zero from the scoreboard. Akers was able to find Jared Wilson for a six-yard touchdown pass with just under 13 minutes remaining in the game. 

Gila River answered back quickly, though, marching down the field in just over two minutes. Running back Gary Bragg had an 18-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 41-7. 

“I think we did a good job with the run game. We ran the ball pretty well,” Coach Felker said. 

Offensive struggles continued for the Pumas, as Akers fumbled once again, this time recovered by the Hawks at the 27-yard line. It took the Hawks two snaps to add on their final touchdown of the night, this one coming on an 18-yard run from Resi Shank. 

Papago’s special teams unit had a huge blocked punt in the red zone that was recovered by the Pumas and taken into the end zone for a touchdown. The Pumas went for two and were able to convert, making it 46-15 with around six minutes remaining. 

The Pumas closed the game out with a four-yard touchdown run from Brian Santana-Fis with 3:30 remaining. They once again elected to go for two, but this time couldn’t convert, making the final score 46-15. 

Next week, the Papago Pumas are on a bye before facing the Gila River Hawks once again, this time at home at Westwood High School. Meanwhile for the Hawks, they’ll work to clean up their play this week before heading to Mountain Ridge High School to face the Maricopa Mustangs next week. 

“If we play like this next week, it’s gonna be a long night,” Coach Felker said. 

Ricedorff echoed that sentiment, knowing the team needs to pick things up leading into the game against Maricopa. 

“As a quarterback and a receiving group, we have to go back and be able to work harder to just complete the simple ones,” Ricedorff said. “This was just an OK game for us offensively.”

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