Ephraim, Utah - Gabriel Claudio had yet to make a field goal this season for the fifth-ranked Arizona Western College football team but he came through in the clutch. On Saturday night on the road at sixth-ranked Snow College, the freshman kicker from Cibola knocked both of his attempts through, including a 20-yarder with 7 seconds to play that won the game. The Mats covered the following kickoff and won the game 29 - 27 over Snow.
After Snow scored with five minutes left in the fourth quarter to take a 27-26 lead, the Mats methodically marched down the field with a 14-play drive that chewed up 4 minutes and 34 seconds to set up Claudio's heroics. Quarterback Bryce Perkins efficiently led the way by going 7-9 for 54 yards. Tight end Dominick Anderson gobbled up four of those passes for 28 yards to help keep the drive moving. Perkins scrambled down to the 5-yard line with 23 seconds left, but he was hurt on the play. Jack Colletto came in and took it down to the 3 to set up the field goal with 11 seconds left. Claudio then executed and calmly drilled the clutch field goal through the uprights.
Snow had just taken the lead moments before that drive by capitalizing on a Perkins interception. Snow quarterback Shane Johnson found Spencer Romney open for a 30-yard strike down the seam that put Snow at first and 10 at the 20-yard line. D'Arman Notoa ran it three straight times and eventually scored from eight yards out. The two-point conversion failed, so Snow's lead stayed 27-26.
In the first half, Snow took the lead late in the first quarter. The Badgers capped a 13-play 69-yard drive with a four yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Romney for a four-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
After Arizona Western punted, the ball rolled to the Snow 10, and the Matador defense forced a three-and-out. Snow lined up to punt, but the snap sailed out the back of the end zone for a Matador safety.
The Matador offense marched right down the field after the free kick. Jack Colletto ran the ball in from one yard out to cap a seven-play 58-yard drive. Mats let 9 to 7 with 12:27 to play in the second quarter.
Both offenses stalled until Arizona Western took over with 5:37 to play in the first half. The offense ground down the clock with an 11-play drive. Claudio polished things off with a 31-yard field goal and a 12-7 halftime lead.
Snow's offense stormed out firing on all cylinders to start the third quarter. The Badgers went 73 yards in eight plays and Johnson found Riley Nebeker for a 25-yard touchdown pass. After the extra point, Snow led 14-12.
AWC punted, and Snow again marched right down the field. This time Johnson threw an 18-yard touchdown to Notoa with 5:09 to play in the third quarter.
The Matador offense answered by driving 90 yards for a score. Perkins lofted a pass to the back pylon, and Steffon McKnight made a spectacular diving catch for an 11-yard touchdown. After Claudio kicked the extra point, the Mats trailed 21-19.
Snow punted on its next possession, and it rolled all the way to the Matador 2. Two plays later, McKnight outran the Badger secondary and Perkins threw a strike to McKnight for a 93 yard touchdown. After Claudio made the extra point, the Mats led 26-21 with 12:52 left in the game. Perkins finished 32-45 for 376 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also led the team with 70 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Anderson led the Matador receiving crew with 14 receptions for 98 yards. McKnight had five catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and Jaron Woodyard finished with seven catches for 94 yards.
Arizona Western hosts Phoenix College next week Saturday October 14th at 7 p.m. at Veterans Memorial stadium. Tickets are only $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and Military members. Kids 12 and under and AWC students and staff (with current school ID) get in for FREE!