The Pima Aztecs blew open a close game with a 21-point 4th quarter to spoil the 2014 opener of the Phoenix College Bears, 36-19, in the Western States Football League opener for both teams Saturday night at Hogan Field at Hoy Stadium on the PC campus. It's the third straight year that the Bears have hosted the Aztecs to begin the season, and it's the second straight year that Pima has come to Phoenix and won.
The game resembled a 'typical' Week 1 matchup, since the teams combined for 27 penalties, but Pima was able to lead from wire-to-wire to give Jim Monaco a win in his Pima head coaching debut. After the Bears missed a field goal at the end of a scoreless first quarter, Pima got their running game going to engineer a 6-play, 80-yard drive that ended when backup tailback Deontay Townsend broke free for a 37-yard touchdown scamper with 13:19 left in the half.
Tanner Fanning's extra point was blocked (creating an evening-long theme in that department for both teams), but he would redeem himself six minutes later with a 26-yard field goal to extend Pima's lead to 9-0. The Aztecs were ready to take the momentum into the halftime locker room until Aztecs' freshman quarterback Kian Homme threw a pass right into the waiting arms of Bears' linebacker E.J. McKenzie, who returned it eight yards to the Pima 27 with just over a minute left. The suddenly awakened Bears' offense cashed in the miscue, thanks to Bears' quarterback (and Scottsdale CC transfer) A.J. Thigpen (Hamilton HS) and wide receiver Kayaune (KEE-wahn) Ross, who connected on back-to-back completions: a 22-yard pass play to get the Bears inside the Pima 5-yard-line; then a 4-yarder to the back of the end zone to get the Bears on the board with 60 seconds left, 9-6 (the extra point was blocked), and that would be the score at halftime.
The Bears seemed much more poised coming out of the locker room, and kept possession of the ball for most of the first seven minutes of the 3rd quarter, yet couldn't come away with points. The momentum then shifted mightily with 6:58 left when Aztecs' receiver Donovan Moore sped past the Bears' defense to reel in a 73-yard TD pass from Homme, running untouched for the last 50 yards. Undeterred, the Bears struck back with a long pass of their own as Thigpen fired a 48-yard pass over the top of the Pima defense to Donte' Heard to cut the Aztecs' lead to 15-13 with 1:18 left in the quarter.
However, the Aztecs began throwing long passes to try to beat the Bears' defensive secondary, and found quick success. Homme hit Angel Holmes for a 47-yard pass in the final minute of the 3rd quarter that set up a 27-yard TD strike from Homme to Moore just 30 seconds into the 4th quarter to extend Pima's lead to 9 points again. The Bears would never get closer than that again after Ross bobbled a pass that was picked out of the air by Pima defensive back Markell Simmons, who returned it 35 yards to the end zone to extend the lead to 16 points with 12:10 left. Pima sophomore tailback Antony Thompson officially put things out of reach by capping a seven-play drive with a 1-yard TD run with 5:59 left on the clock. Heard would reel in his second TD pass of the night with 3:44 left: a 15-yard pass from Bears' backup QB David Gesicki (juh-SIH-kee) (Seton Catholic Prep) to cap the scoring.
Thigpen threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns in his Bears' debut, hitting on half of his 34 pass attempts; while Heard had 3 catches for 78 yards and 2 TD. Homme just missed out on a 300-yard passing night in his college debut for the Aztecs (1-0 overall, 1-0 WSFL), connecting on 15 of his 28 pass attempts for 299 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. Moore was his favorite receiver, grabbing 7 balls for 149 receiving yards and the two scores, while Thompson rushed 23 times for 131 yards and a TD.
The Bears (0-1 overall, 0-1 WSFL) now embark on their first road trip of the season, heading to Roswell, New Mexico next Saturday to face New Mexico Military Institute before heading to Mesa to face the Thunderbirds in two weeks. The Bears' next home matchup happens September 20th when they host 12th-ranked Arizona Western at Hogan Field at Hoy Stadium on the PC campus. Kickoff is scheduled for 7PM.
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