ANTIOCH — Friday night’s game marked the first time on the field for some of Rodriguez High’s players.
Some first-time jitters showed.
The Mustangs fell to the host Deer Valley Wolverines, 56-13, behind a host of yellow flags and miscues.
The Mustangs were penalized eight times in the first half for mishaps such as delay of game, false starts and too many men on the field.
“We definitely had a lot of confusion with the offense in the first half,” Rodriguez coach Berwyn Hutcherson said.
The Wolverines turned two Rodriguez interceptions into touchdowns. Chibueze Onyeukwu returned one for a 6-yard touchdown while Robert Taylor ended an offensive drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Nsimba Webster.
Deer Valley also capitalized when the ball was in its possession. Webster was a menace, with each of his three completions going for a touchdown for 111 yards passing.
He added one more TD on the ground, a 41-yard scamper in which he looked to pass before changing his mind, tucking the ball and running down the Rodriguez sideline for a score. He led all rushers with 77 yards.
While Webster provided many offensive sparks for Deer Valley, Miles Perry was at the heart of both scores for the Mustangs.
Each came in the closing seconds of its respective half.
With Rodriguez down 35-0 and Deer Valley facing second-and-3 from the 8, Perry snatched a bobbled ball out of the air and faced no defenders in front of him as he sprinted 88 yards to pay dirt to close the first half. It was the longest fumble return in school history and the fourth-longest by a city player.
As the final seconds of a running clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, Perry hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Hurt.
“He put himself in a position to make plays,” Hutcherson said.
As Perry was there at the end of each half, Deer Valley’s Nzuzi Webster was key at the beginning of each. The senior wide receiver hauled in a 27-yard toss from Nsimba Webster on the third play of the Wolverines’ first possession, giving Deer Valley a led it would never relinquish.
Nzuzi Webster also bolted down his own sideline for a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half, giving the Wolverines a 42-7 edge.
Nzuzi Webster also added a punt return for touchdown in the first quarter to give Deer Valley a 21-0 edge.
Injuries played a factor for the Mustangs. Elijah Lawson, Arron Short, Miles Saunders, Tyler McLaughlin and Nash Jantoc all missed downs or exited the game due to injuries, Hutcherson said.
For the Wolverines, along with Nzuzi Webster and Taylor, Moose Safi had a 57-yard touchdown catch and Jeff Robinson added a 1-yard rushing TD.