After a pair of blowout wins, Walden Grove High School had a more competitive game Friday night against the Pueblo Warriors, and earned a hard-fought victory, 28-20.
Red Wolves Coach Corey Noble said it was a “tough game and tough opponent.”
“We knew it’d be a closer game than we’d been having with our recent opponents,” Noble said Saturday.
The Red Wolves’ high-powered offense was held scoreless in the first quarter, until quarterback Alex Lopez connected with twin brother on a short pass, which he turned into a long touchdown run as he broke to the sideline to avoid the Warriors defense and headed for paydirt.
Walden Grove led 6-0 after a failed two-point conversion, until the Warriors responded with a touchdown and two-point try, taking the game to 8-6.
Lopez connected on a pass to Stephen Brower for the team’s second TD of the night, and made the score 13-8 after the PAT kick. The Warriors would never lead again.
The Red Wolves returned to the field after halftime ready to put the game out of reach.
Less than two minutes into the third, Lopez connected with Bradley Capen, with kicker Nathan Alvarenga tacking on the PAT to go ahead 20-8.
The game was mired with flags throughout, with neither team able to get much traction for large portions of the matchup.
“There were a lot of penalties,” Noble said. “It was a chippy game on both sides.”
Late in the third quarter, Lopez threw the ball directly to Warriors defender Ruben Rivera, who zigged and zagged across the field to the end zone to bring the Warriors back within a score. A fumble on the PAT attempt left the score at 20-14.
Lopez responded to the interception by driving down the field once again, capping off with a touchdown strike to Hector Najar for his fourth scoring pass of the night. Lopez wasn’t done, keeping the ball on the ensuing two-point conversion and taking the score to 28-14.
A controversial pass interference call on a well-defended ball gave the Warriors great field position, leading to an easy touchdown to bring them back within a score, 28-20, with 6:44 left in the game.
Noble said the refs “wanted to throw a lot of flags,” but also acknowledged the team must “do a little better job in a couple instances of playing cleaner and not committing penalties.”
The Warriors would get one more chance with the ball, but the Red Wolves defense stood tall, including a key pass breakup by defensive back Ari Hickman to help seal the win.
“We overcame the adversity in the game to get a great win,” Noble said.
Walden Grove is now 6-2 and undefeated in conference play, and takes on Amphitheater in Tucson on Friday.
“It’s another opportunity for us to play our best football and earn a victory towards winning a region championship,” Noble said about the upcoming game. “They’re well coached and are gonna play hard.”
The halftime performance honored the memory of Walden Grove band member Mason Taylor, who died in a cycling accident in July.
Sahuarita Sun freelancer Nicholas Trujillo contributed to this story.