KINGMAN - Dallas Morgan and Jason Ruiz wanted to help prove a point: they may be sophomores, but they fear no one - including Kingman Academy. The Lee Williams High backfield duo played key roles as the Volunteers topped Kingman Academy 22-14 Friday night at Southside Park.
It was the first ever varsity football game between high schools in Kingman, and LWHS (4-6) secured bragging rights. Concluding the 2013 season on a 3-game winning streak, the Volunteers played well when it mattered most - the final stretch.
Ruiz ran for one touchdown, Morgan rushed for two.
"It was intense. I had my doubts coming in to play, but we had some good blocks and we executed," Morgan said. "And they couldn't go anywhere on us. We had the momentum, our crowd was going wild."
After Lee Williams recovered a fumble near Kingman Academy's sideline, Morgan scored the first touchdown with four minutes and 35 seconds left in the first half, muscling his way up the middle on a 2-yard rush. After their PAT was blocked, LWHS led 6-0.
Soon enough, all the twists and turns came in.
The Volunteers regained possession before the break and were looking to pad the lead before sophomore quarterback Braxton Burgess's pass attempt turned the game on its head again. Tomlinson intercepted the ball near KAHS' 10-yard line and swerved and darted down the sideline 90 yards for the pick-six as the clock expired. The Tigers led 7-6 at halftime.
It was still 7-6 going into the fourth quarter when Lee Williams' offense picked up the pace.
Morgan earned a key first down with a reception on third-and-14 to keep the drive alive, and Ruiz capped it with a short run up the middle. Ruiz forced his way past the goal line again for the 2-point conversion.
The Vols had the lead, 14-7, but more drama was still to come.
From around midfield, Tomlinson launched a deep throw to senior Cody Tuepker, who ran all the way to the 4-yard line. KAHS senior running back Westin McCord finished the drive, cutting right and evading LWHS defenders for the rushing touchdown with 4:54 left. The game was tied at 14.
Dallas Morgan broke the tie. With 1:34 remaining, he fought his way into the end zone on an 8-yard run and also ran in the 2-point conversion, giving Lee Williams a 22-14 lead.
"They showed a lot of urgency. Along with that, they showed a lot of guts," Lee Williams head coach Eugene Kramer said of his backfield duo.
With the lead, the Volunteers' fan base started going nuts. The LWHS cheerleaders interacted with the fans by doing 22 jumping jacks. Chanting "defense" and "Vols," they grew restless.
After breaking up a pass at midfield, the Volunteers finished with a game-ending quarterback sack.
"That's been kind of the Achilles' heel for a lot of games this year, where we're battling back from behind at the end of the ball game. My heart hurts for my boys," KAHS head coach Wally Mueller said, choking up when discussing the senior class. "But the other half of me, I applaud (Lee Williams) for their effort.
"I was happy to see that much passion with the fan base that was around here for both teams. It's been 20 years since I've seen a crowd like that at a high school football game in Kingman, Arizona. I've talked to Kramer and Ray [Smith], and we want to put this town back on the map for football." Smith is one of Kramer's assistants and is a long-time coaching legend here having been Kingman High's head coach and Kramer's assistant when he led KAHS.
Fans flooded the LWHS sideline at the end.
"I'm grateful for the kids that we have, the character they showed on the field," Kramer said. "It was just a great victory for all of Lee Williams, including fans, players, coaches, everyone. I feel that we're really at that point now where we're peaking."
The Tigers ended their season 4-6, saying goodbye to 15 seniors.
"I don't think any of us have any regrets. Austin Tomlinson played his heart out. Westin McCord, too," said Tigers senior lineman Dakota Lancaster, who attended the KAOL school system for 15 total years and wants to attend the United States Air Force Academy. "I've had (coaches) Kramer, [Doug] Odum and Wally. I've learned so much from them about life.
"Kramer was honestly one of the biggest influences of my life. I met him my freshman year, and I started working out with the football team. And since then, so many things have happened because of that. I don't think I'll ever be able to thank him enough."