KINGMAN - A 21-7 lead turned out to be a fragile thing Friday night at Kingman High. The guests who had been so accommodating up to that point - trailing by 14 with 9:10 left in the third quarter - stopped turning the ball over, stopped committing untimely penalties and started looking like the offensive machine that had been hinted at earlier.
The wild ride wasn't over, but the big plays that had pushed Kingman to the lead started happening when the Coronado Dons had the ball. The Dons scored the five final touchdowns to whip the Bulldogs, 42-21.
Before that, though, the hometown fans saw three huge plays that gave them a ton of hope a week after a 49-0 thrashing against Flagstaff left them empty.
Running back Isaiah Perez was the catalyst. After Coronado scored on a 42-yard pass-and-run on the Dons' first possession, Perez took a handoff up the middle, broke some arm tackles and pulled away on an 80-yard touchdown run.
A gang tackle on Kingman's next possession left Perez writhing in pain on the field after a 7-yard gain. Perez eventually limped off the field and his return appeared uncertain.
Instead, his return was stunning. Perez took the handoff on first-and-12 from the 2-yard-line and burst through a big hole. He fought off a tackler at midfield and galloped the rest of the way unmolested on the 98-yard scoring play.
The run by Perez broke the school record, topping a 92-yard jaunt by Rick Kinateder against Wickenburg in 1961.
While the Dons were having trouble bringing down Perez, who finished with 230 yards rushing, the visitors showed surer tackling ability when they had the ball. Three times in the first half, big gains or touchdowns by Coronado were called back for holding.
The Dons also left the ball on the ground twice to kill promising drives. The second fumble came early in the second half after a pass play had the Dons in scoring position.
Kingman capitalized on first down, taking a 21-7 lead when Chandler Baca got behind the defense and hauled in a scoring pass from Nate Sinclair on a play that covered 90 yards.
Garrett Stephens led the Bulldogs defensively with 14 tackles. Julian Nelson had nine tackles and a sack, and Mason Wester also had nine tackles.
The lead was short-lived, though, as the Dons scored on a 69-yard passing play on first down, then tied it at 21 with 3:56 left in the third on a 33-yard passing play.
Kingman, which couldn't sustain a drive, was out of big play magic and, apparently, out of gas on defense. The Dons scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to win going away.
Kingman coach Greg Tonjes expressed disappointment in his team's defensive effort late in the game, saying the attitudes of some players sagged.
But there were bright spots, too, especially the three long scoring plays.
Baca caught three passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. He also booted three extra points. Quarterback Nate Sinclair completed eight of 17 passes for 169 yards, and the Bulldogs finished with 414 yards in total offense.
"I'm excited about a lot of things, but we're just not good enough yet," Tonjes told the Bulldogs.