There was only one problem with Tony Hatfield's impersonation of Alex Howard Friday night.
Howard himself did it better.
Howard of Williams Field and Hatfield of Poston Butte traded a pair of touchdowns during an explosive first quarter Friday night in San Tan Valley, but it was Howard and the visiting Black Hawks that proved to be too much through the full four quarters, pulling away for a 35-20 victory over the host Broncos.
After Poston Butte (6-3) went three-and-out on the game's opening drive, Howard barreled down the sidelines for a 69-yard touchdown run on just the second offensive snap for Williams Field.
On the ensuing kickoff, it was Hatfield's turn. He initially dropped the kick, but regrouped and raced 89 yards to quickly tie it back up. Two Williams Field offensive plays later, it was Howard once again, scoring from 50 yards out.
Four offensive snaps; 21 points; 42 seconds.
"Our kids were real excited about playing this week. They knew that Poston Butte was a really good team ... they were excited to play someone of their caliber," Williams Field head coach Steve Campbell said. "I think that we were just a little bit amped up in the beginning. We hit it, hit it, hit it. But we burned a lot of energy.
Added Poston Butte coach Mike De La Torre: "There's certainly an emotional tide there that we could ride a little bit. It helped us there in that first half. ... Tony's been doing that for us, he's got that flash a little bit. He can go and make things happen. That's why he's a returner back there."
Hatfield would score again late in the first to tie the game at 14 - this time on the ground from seven yards - before Williams Field (8-1) pulled away to lead 28-14 at the half en route to the victory. Howard had all four first half touchdowns for Williams Field.
While Desert Ridge running back Joey Counts was making his push for the state's big-school rushing record over in East Mesa on this night, Williams Field's Howard was forging his own assault at the mark in the Valley's southeastern most point. He ultimately finished with 305 yards and those four scores on 26 carries, although he did have another 80-yard run for a touchdown that was called back in the third quarter.
"It's hard to practice during the week when you have to try and match that kind of stuff," De La Torre said of game planning for Howard.
Campbell noted that this was the first time all season that Howard had to be the go-to-guy the entire game. Part of that is the big leads the Black Hawks often ring up; part of that is having all-purpose contributor Sean Schweichler there to help spell Howard on most nights.
Schweichler was in street clothes on the sideline for this one, sitting with a knee sprain, Campbell said, adding that he hoped the junior would be back next week.
"Tonight (Howard) had to go the distance, you know, which he hadn't had to do - I don't know if he's done it all year," Campbell said.
Joked Howard after the game: "Too much."
"I'll get a good sleep tonight and I'll be ready to go next week," Howard said. "It was a good win, but I thought we could have done better."
While Howard's impact was felt both in the end zone and on the stat sheet, numbers don't do justice in describing Hatfield's effectiveness for the Broncos.
He only had a handful of carries out of the backfield, but in addition to the long kick return score, also had three other occasions where he returned kicks across the field and into Williams Field territory.
Considering the Black Hawks outgained Poston Butte 505-195 in total offense, that kind of push was invaluable, De La Torre said.
For the Broncos, quarterback Dean Martino completed 11 of 21 passes for 81 yards, including a 10-yard third-quarter touchdown to Cameron Owen. Martino also ran for 36 yards.
Williams Field shuttled two quarterbacks through, going primarily with senior Garrett Forsgren before platooning Jeddediah Fagg. The pair combined to complete 8 of 17 passes for 106 yards and an interception, while Forsgren also rushed for 50 yards.
While Williams Field has a tough road next week facing fellow 8-1 Queen Creek in the regular season finale, Poston Butte - playing in only its first full varsity season - hosts Apache Junction.
It's been an interesting three week stretch for the Broncos. They started the season 6-0, but then dropped three straight, to 7-2 Perry, 8-1 Queen Creek and now 8-1 Williams Field. De La Torre is confident that the difficult parts of this stretch will only make his young team stronger in the end.
"We use (those opponents) as measurements," he said. "As a new program coming in, we look and see where we're at competitively against those types of teams. Can we be competitive? We've shown that we can be in ballgames and can have a chance to win those kind of ballgames."