Moriarty’s Elijah Tapia scored two touchdowns in last Friday’s Homecoming home-opener but it was the visiting Piedra Vista Panthers who went home with the 33-13 victory.
As the team huddled at the 50-yard line following the defeat the collective message from the coaching staff was clear: the Pintos “played darn good” in the second half, but they’ve got to do that from start to finish.
“If we play strong for two halves it’s a different game,” said Moriarty head coach Joe Anaya. “Gotta give [the Panthers] the credit they deserve, they’re a good football team, but we can play with those guys, we’ve just gotta put four quarters together.”
The Pintos dug themselves into a hole by sputtering on all seven of their first-half possessions while the Panthers built a 20-0 halftime lead.
By the middle of the third quarter, following another touchdown by Piedra Vista’s Elijah Gamboa, who split his time between quarterback and running back, the Pintos were looking up at a 26-point deficit.
Tapia’s 5-yard sweep past a handful of Panthers with 3:21 left in the third quarter finally got the Pintos into the end zone.
“We came out kind of flat in the first half,” Tapia said. “The second half we came out hard and we kept fighting the whole time.”
In the fourth quarter Tapia caught a touchdown pass—a 24-yard strike from quarterback Nick Young—to trim the gap to 26-13.
“I sold my block, their guy fell down and then I was wide open,” said Tapia, adding, “Of course, Nick threw me a good pass.”
On the ensuing kickoff, the Pintos attempted an onside kick that looked as though Tapia had recovered.
The play elicited a roar from the packed hometown bleachers, and for a brief moment it seemed as though the momentum might have swung in Moriarty’s favor.
But the officials ruled Tapia was out of bounds, giving possession to Piedra Vista.
Three plays later the Panthers slammed the door when Gamboa darted through Moriarty’s defense for a 50-yard TD.
The Pintos’ sluggish first half included four punts, two failed fourth-down conversion attempts, and a costly turnover on their second possession midway through the first quarter.
The Pintos had moved the ball to midfield when Panthers linebacker Shawn Morris snatched the ball right out of Young’s hands and returned it for a touchdown.
Moriarty recovered four Panthers fumbles and converted two of them into touchdowns.
But the Pintos had trouble containing Gamboa who scored on the Panthers’ opening drive and finished with four touchdowns rushing.
“Once we realized we could matchup with them, and we decided, ‘Hey, we can do this,’ I thought we played pretty well,” Anaya said. “We’ll bounce back from this, we’re a good team, we’re a better team than we give ourselves credit for, our guys just have to believe that.”
It was Moriarty’s first Homecoming game on a home-opener in a few years—for the past two years the game fell in October.
Averee Ortiz was crowned Homecoming Queen during the halftime ceremony.
The Pintos host Valencia Friday at 7 p.m.
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.