Game slips out of Kingman High's grasp

KINGMAN - Greg Tonjes asked his Kingman High School Bulldogs to give him 48 complete minutes of intense, focused football Friday night against Coconino.

For all but about 14 seconds, they did.

It was those few seconds in the fourth quarter that broke the Bulldogs' backs.

After Kingman's Daniel Williford scooped up a blocked field goal and sprinted 83 yards for the tying touchdown with 6:30 remaining in the game, the Bulldogs surrendered an 85-yard kickoff return by Coconino's Fabian Lucero and lost, 20-14.

It was the only kickoff that wasn't boomed out of the end zone for a touchback.

The Bulldogs came within an arm's grasp of possibly picking up their first victory and they were feeling that sting afterwards.

"They did hang in there," Kingman coach Tonjes said. "A lot of teams and especially teenagers after going 0-5 halfway through the season would have the mindset that it's all about me or I quit or I don't care. That's what we don't have here."

Kingman fought hard to stay in this game despite playing behind an offensive line decimated with injuries. Four starters have gone down and their replacements are ends and linebackers with no experience on the line.

They had trouble picking up blitzing Panthers and were flagged for a slew of penalties, including illegal procedure, holding, chop blocks and illegal formation when one of the tackles lined up 2 yards back.

Some of those penalties negated long runs and passes.

Kingman led, 7-0, after the first quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by Maurice Longmire around left end. The score was set up by Robert Trujillo's fumble recovery on the Panthers' 10-yard line.

Coconino tied the game on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jess Kuehl to Ray Crank with 10:12 left in the half. The game was then delayed for about an hour because of lightning strikes to the east.

The Panthers took a 14-7 halftime lead on an 8-yard touchdown run by Crank. It could have been a larger Panther lead if not for Williford's interception deep in Bulldog territory just before the half ended.

Kingman's defense rose to the occasion on key plays, including seven quarterback sacks and multiple tackles for lost yardage. Adrian Ochoa had two sacks, an interception and fumble recovery. Eric Pichard was in on 13 tackles, while Julian Nelson and Abrama Ruelas were each credited with nine tackles. Robert Stewart blocked a punt.

"The defense played their best game of the year," Tonjes said. "Going into the game, we only had two sacks all season. We made that a goal and we accomplished that. They played aggressive and physical."

Williford led Kingman's offense with 65 yards rushing and 76 yards passing. He was 10-for-23 passing with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Jose Moreno caught six passes for 31 yards and Tyler Tapia had two catches for 31 yards.

Tonjes said his players love the game and will overcome the pain of losing.

"They genuinely care about each other and their football team. They showed they can go 48 minutes and push teams to the brink. Now it's just getting over the hump. They're fighting and fighting," he said.

Kingman (0-6) plays at Prescott at 7 p.m. Thursday.