Walden Grove — fueled by a dominant defense and a balanced attack on offense —defeated Pueblo 34-6 on Friday night.
The opening drives for both teams foreshadowed the outcome on homecoming night at Walden Grove High School.
Pueblo opened the game stalling out around midfield, with Walden Grove’s defense forcing a turnover on downs.
On the following possession, Walden Grove marched down the field for an eventual 1-yard touchdown from sophomore running back Robert Cash III with 5:41 remaining in the first quarter.
“We wanted to play our brand of football,” Walden Grove head coach Corey Noble said. “We like to attack space, go fast, run and pass but really just take what the defense is giving us and attack green grass and put players in conflict.”
The Walden Grove defense came up big again on Pueblo’s next possession, forcing the Warriors to punt from its 43-yard line.
The Red Wolves extended its lead to 14-0 when junior quarterback Gabriel Smith connected with junior wide receiver Paul Guy for a red zone-touchdown reception with 11:53 left in the second quarter.
On the next drive, Pueblo answered with a 32-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Diego Ramirez to senior wide receiver Andre Blanton, narrowing the Walden Grove lead to 14-6 after a missed extra point.
Less than a minute later, Smith dumped a short pass to Walden Grove senior wide receiver Jahme Dawson that he turned into a 71- yard touchdown after scampering past defenders down the sideline to the end zone to put the Red Wolves up 21-6.
Then the Red Wolves defense came up big again, forcing Pueblo to punt deep in its territory. Sophomore middle linebacker Carlos Montoya Jr. blocked the punt and Walden Grove took over on Pueblo’s 17-yard line.
“It goes all with the line,” Montoya said. “We all have to put in that different type of work, and it just ends up perfectly, you know.”
On fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line, Pueblo’s defense forced a turnover on downs of its own.
Pueblo opened the next possession with long run by Warriors’ senior running back Andrew Gonzalez .
After a 24-yard reception by senior wide receiver Miguel Moreira, Pueblo’s offense would eventually stall out, turning the ball over on downs on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, giving Walden Grove all the more momentum going into halftime.
“We’ve got a legitimate defense. A legit, outstanding, top defense,” Noble said. “We put them in some bad positions tonight. A handful of times when they had a short field to defend, and to get at least one, if not two, goal-line stands in there, and outside of a couple big plays and a couple missed tackles, its a dominant, shutout victory.”
Walden Grove added two more touchdowns in the second half, an 8-yard rushing touchdown from Montoya, who also plays running back and fullback for the Red Wolves, and a 25-yard touchdown reception from Smith to Guy.
The game was called shortly after a lightning delay with 3:17 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The loss for Pueblo (2-1) gives the Warriors its first loss of the season after its third 2-0 start in the last 16 years.
Walden Grove (2-2) enters its bye week with some momentum after a close road loss to Phoenix Arizona College Prep last week.
“So now we go into our bye week, which comes at a pretty good time,” Noble said. “We played four good games. Our last two opponents have been very tough. It will be a nice opportunity to heal up a little bit here and get back to the basics — focus on the basics and some of the fundamental stuff. We missed a few tackles tonight. We’ve got a young offensive line that’s going to continue to develop and grow and get better and better.
“So, really just reset a bit and get ready for this six-game push to finish the season.”
Walden Grove plays Saturday, Oct. 7 at Mountain View. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Pueblo plays Saturday, Sept. 30, at Amphi. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He is currently attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.