The cast was true but Gilbert Highland wiggled off Yuma Kofa’s hook Thursday at Irv Pallack Field.
The Kings were winning the battle of field position and pitching a shutout when back-to-back second quarter penalties shifted the momentum to the Hawks who scored on their final two possessions of the half and returned an interception to escape Yuma with a 33-16 win.
“Penalties hurt us and we’re not the type of football team that can take those penalties,” Kofa coach Kevin Moore said. “Once we get in a hole it is hard to dig ourselves out of it.”
The Kofa defense forced Highland (4-1) to punt on its first three possessions as the Hawks managed just two first downs before the intermission.
Kings sophomore Timmy Lee ripped off 31 yards on the first play from scrimmage and hammered the right edge for gains of 15 and 11 yards as his receivers sealed blocks downfield.
But things curdled with Kofa ahead 3-0 with 6:30 to play in the half.
An 11-yard Lee carry had given Kofa (1-3) a first down at the Hawks’ 46. The tailback was held for no gain on first down but the Kings were whistled for holding and illegal procedure on consecutive third-down plays.
The resulting punt gave Highland its best starting field position of the evening at its own 32-yard line.
Fullback Mike Madrid rumbled for a 25-yard gain on second down to move the Hawks into Kofa territory for the first time. Highland tailback Eli West shed a pair of Kofa tackles one play later and beat the safeties to the pylon for a 38-yard touchdown, giving Highland a 6-3 lead after the point after attempt failed.
The Hawks never trailed after that score but the Kings avoided a 35-plus point rout against Highland for the first time in three seasons.
“They’re a good football team we’re just still making mistakes,” Highland coach Pete Wahlheim said. “They’re much better than they’ve been in the past we just need to clean up our mistakes.”
Kofa couldn’t regain momentum before the half as Kane Nelson threw his second interception to West, who read the quarterbacks eyes, jumped Mark Wright’s route and returned the pick for a 27-yard touchdown.
Kofa managed to get a punt off despite a high snap after going three and out on its next possession. After taking over at the Kofa 37, Highland quarterback Jeremy Fuhst found wideout Granger Haviland on a post for a 37-yard touchdown.
Lee’s 5-yard touchdown run cut Highland’s lead to 10 with 7:31 left in the third but Fuhst threw a another TD pass to James Pazos to make it a 26-9 game on the next drive.
Despite outgaining Highland in rushing yardage (215-174) and first downs (11-8), Kofa couldn’t overcome that three-score deficit even after a Hawks fumble set up a fourth quarter Lee touchdown.
“I read the blocks and took whatever there was to get,” said Lee, who led all rushers with 135 yards on 28 carries. “I was trying to get through to everybody and get everyone into the game.”
West finished with one less yard than Lee and a pair of scores on just 11 carries.