Highland thought it could pull off a little trickery, but there's a reason Corona del Sol spends nearly one-third of its three-hour practices on special teams.
Tied at halftime and in need of some offensive oomph, the Hawks tried a pooch kick to begin the second half, but a charging Colton Carter raced forward from the second line of Corona players, caught the ball on the run and was gone.
His 65-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter gave Corona a lead it only expanded in the Aztecs' 28-10 victory on Friday night.
Kyle Niemtchk had a key block in front of Carter, who ran up the middle with one small juke to his right.
"I saw the ball into my hands, saw the hole and the adrenaline kicked in," said Carter, who returned his first kick for a score last year on JV.
Highland coach Pete Wahlheim tried to shoulder the blame for calling a second-half pooch kick, but the Hawks (0-4) have struggled offensively this year with injuries, penalties and youth, and he felt it was worth a shot.
It almost worked.
"It changed the whole momentum," he said. "Our kids competed all night and it put us behind the 8-ball. It really broke our back."
But Highland responded with an impressive drive that was stalled by goal line penalties, and resulted in a 32-yard field goal by Austin Casillas to pull within 14-10.
The ensuing seven minutes belonged to Dominic Mercurio and Corona's offensive line. Mercurio ran counter plays, traps or dives up the middle, as the Aztecs moved the chains and ate clock.
On fourth-and-2 in Highland's territory, the Aztecs ran a toss play that Mercurio busted for 36 yards to the Highland 3-yard line. On the next play, Matt Seall caught a touchdown from Kyle Busk to make it 21-10 with 3 minutes left in the third quarter.
"That's fun football when you can eat seven or eight minutes like that," Corona coach Tom Joseph said.
Mercurio finished with 92 yards rushing, while Busk took several big hits while running the ball and survived seven consecutive incompletions. The Aztecs defense sacked Highland sophomore quarterback Blake Young - playing because normal starter Merrick Madrid is injured - five times, three by Andrus Peat.
Young threw for 155 yards - 61and a touchdown went to Bill Johnson.
Now with three consecutive wins after an opening-night loss to Basha, the Aztecs know what's coming (Desert Vista, Yuma Cibola, Mountain Pointe, Chandler, Mesquite and Hamilton), but it wasn't going to stop the good times in their locker room.
Across the stadium, Highland sat on its bus deflated-yet-defiant through its mistakes and being shorthanded (a couple more Hawks suffered injuries Friday).
"They're going to keep playing and keep fighting," Wahlheim said. "I'm the one who needs to be better and clean things up."