Too much Zach Miiller. A few Perry fumbles. One kick from Kimberly Acosta.
All that spelled defeat Thursday night for Perry High as visiting Mountain Ridge journeyed to the East Valley and whacked the host Pumas, 45-26, in a Division I contest.
Mountain Ridge (2-3) welcomed back senior tailback Miiller to a full night's duty and was glad to have him. Miiller missed the second game of the season with a concussion and played sparingly last week in a 15-7 loss to Highland. He made up for lost playing time by rushing unofficially for 322 yards on 22 carries and five touchdowns. Miiller scored on runs of 8, 42, 1, 56 and 79 in a game Mountain Ridge never trailed in. Miiller opened the season with 100-yard rushing performance against Cesar Chavez.
“We got him back last week after the concussion and tonight he showed what he could do,” Mountain Ridge coach Bobby Green said. “He has the power to run inside and the speed to break it outside.”
Mountain Ridge struck first after the first of two costly first-half Perry turnovers. The Mountain Lions started at the Perry 14 on their second possession after Perry quarterback Austin Nightingale fumbled. Two plays later Miiller scampered 8 yards for his first TD and Logan Besore added the first of his four extra points for a 7-0 lead.
Perry tied the game briefly on the first play of the second quarter. The Pumas capitalized on a Mountain Ridge fumble with Nightingale knotting the score with a 6-yard TD run at the 11:53 mark. Miiller (5-foot-8, 180) made that lead vanish quickly, performing a Houdini on a 42-yard TD run. He somehow escpaped a huge mass of bodies a few yards up field and then ran from that pack the final 25 or 30 yards to make it 14-7 with 10:24 left before the half.
Miiller's third TD a minute later followed Perry's second fumble of the half. It was recovered by Mountain Ridge's Jake Skadeland, who returned the fumble 25 yards to the Perruy 1 setting up the score that made it 21-7.
Mountain Ridge senior quarterback Robert Limmer, one of four quarterbacks to pilot the Mountain Lions this season due to injury and the like, tossed the team's first TD pass of the season — a 56-yard catch and run to senior wideout Austin Cottrell. Mountain Ridge took a 28-10 lead to intermission.
Perry (2-3), which lost Nightingale to a leg injury late in the first half, scored 10 points in the third period to pull within 35-20. Mitchell Albrect's second field goal of the night and a well-executed boot-leg pass from backup quarterback Alec Monte to tight end Lane Veach gave Perry hope with one second left in the third period.
Miiller, however, extinguished that hope by busting loose for a 79-yard TD on the first play of the final period. Mountain Ridge's 42nd point was an extra point kicked by the team's smallest player — 4-foot-11 Acosta. Her PAT wasn't a boomer, but had the height and a couple yards to spare for her contribution for the game.
Miiiler's 56-yard socring run midway through the third period stung Perry as it attempte to rally. The Pumas opened the second half driving to the Mountain Ridge 10 and settled for a field goal. They took nearly seven minutes off the clock to get three points. Miiller's 56-yard TD came 90 seconds later and was one of only five plays Mountain Ridge ran in the quarter.
“Their running back is a good one,” Perry coach Preston Jones said. “Turnovers hurt us like they did last week. Good football teams don't turn it over like we did.”