Harvest Cup battle bigger than ever

It has been awhile since the Yuma Football Team won at rival Wray.
It was 2008 the last time Yuma walked off Powell Field victorious, 13-12, thanks to two field goals. This year’s players were not even in school yet.

Friday would be a great time for the YFT to break that drought when the ancient rivals meet in a Class 1A League 4 showdown, with The Harvest Cup again on the line.
Yuma enters 6-0 overall, 2-0 in League 4, while Wray is 4-2, 1-1. Yuma is No. 2 in the 1A Rating Percentage Index, and No. 3 in the Top 10 poll. Wray is No. 2 in the Top 10, and No. 8 in the RPI.
It will be the first Top 5 showdown between the Yuma County rivals since the glory days of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
While Yuma is the undefeated team entering the Yuma County Showdown, it is going to be a serious challenge for the former Indians to get their first win in Wray in 14 years, and only second time in more than 20 (the previous Yuma win in Wray coming in 2001).
Wray’s first loss came last month 28-0 against a very good Scott City, Kansas, team. The Eagles then gave top-ranked Limon all it could handle in a 13-8 loss last Saturday at Limon, though the Badgers’ five turnovers definitely played a role.
Meanwhile, Yuma has displayed great mental toughness in starting 6-0 for the first time since 2009. Yuma has been outgained on offense each of its last three games, but have managed to come out victorious, 10-7 over Brush, 23-20 over Wiggins and 32-21 at Burlington. Yuma committed three turnovers, but but so did the Cougars as Yuma still got out of town with the win.
A Yuma win on Friday would further enhance the team’s chance to open the playoffs at home for the first time since 2013.
Limon and Yuma currently are 2-0 in 1A League 4, while Wray and Wiggins each are 1-1, and Burlington and Holyoke 0-2. Wiggins ran past Holyoke last week 42-8.
This week’s league action includes Wiggins hosting Burlington, and Limon hosting Holyoke.
League 4 has the top three teams in the 1A Top 10 — Limon, Wray and Yuma — and Wiggins is No. 6. All six teams are in the top 20 in the RPI, Limon No. 1, Yuma No. 2, Wiggins No. 6, Wray No. 8, Burlington No. 11 and Holyoke No. 20.
Last Friday’s win at Burlington was a challenge for Yuma from start to finish. It was the second straight game in which Yuma blew a two-touchdown lead in the second half, with the opponents’ comeback sparked by a turnover.
The defense held the Cougars to 21 rushing yards on 17 attempts, an average of 0.8 yard per run. However, the Cougars found great success through the air, completing 14 of 22 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Burlington’s Logan Boyd particularly tortured the secondary with seven catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns.
Yuma struck first as a Daman Hernandez interception set up the YFT at Burlington’s 32. It took six plays to score on Kallen Blach’s 1-yard plunge after Nash Richardson’s 17-yard run. The extra point by Alex Lozano gave Yuma a 7-0 lead.
Burlington struck back in the second quarter with an interception setting up the Cougars at Yuma’s 37. Boyd had grabbed the interception, then backed that up with a 38-yard TD catch from Garrett Richardson. The extra point was good, and the teams were tied at 7.
Yuma regained the lead on its next drive. Richardson ran for 21 yards, and a Burlington penalty put the ball on the 10, followed by Richardson going the rest of the distance for a TD. Lozano’s PAT gave Yuma a 14-7 lead, and it stayed there the rest of the first half.
Yuma increased its lead in the third quarter when an interception by Jonathan Thomson set up Yuma with good field position. After a series of short power runs, Richardson broke several tackles while on his way to a 25-yard touchdown run.
However, the extra point was blocked, leaving Yuma ahead 20-7. It was the first miss by Lozano all season.
Burlington’s next drive ended with a Hernandez interception in the end zone, returning it to the Yuma 30. However, the Yuma boys could not capitalize, and the third ended with Yuma up by 13 points.
It did not take long for the Cougars to strike in the fourth, with a 60-yard drive capped by G. Richardson’s nine-yard TD pass to Boyd. The extra point pulled the Cougars to within six.
Hernandez lost a fumble on Yuma’s next possession after he had gained the first down. Burlington took advantage with Boyd’s 40-yard TD catch from G. Richardson.
The extra point was good, and Yuma trailed for the first time this season, 21-20 with 8 minutes, 18 seconds left.
Yuma did not panic, though, instead embarking on a 51-yard drive capped by Silas Baucke’s 12-yard touchdown run. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Yuma ahead 26-21 with under 4 minutes to go.
Burlington got pinned deep in its own territory, and failed to convert a fourth-and-17 from its own 7-yard line with 1:34 left.
Yuma was content to kneel and run out the clock. However, Burlington called a timeout after first down, so Yuma ran two plays, capped by Blach’s 1-yard TD as time expired, resulting in the 32-21 win.
Yuma gained all 208 of its yards on the ground, averaging 3.8 yards per run. Richardson ran for 105 yards and two TDs on 15 carries, Jack Blecha 50 yards on 16 carries, Baucke 24 yards and a TD on seven carries, Blach 13 yards and two TDs on five carries, and Hernandez eight yards on four carries. Richardson completed one pass to Thomson for six yards.
Defensively, Victor Perez was in on eight tackles, Richardson six, Blach six, Ethan Gonzales five, Hernandez five, Carson Lynch five, Thomson five, Kevin Hermosillo four, Cesar Varela four, Trey Stegman four, Johnny Carrillo three, Adrian Carranza two, and Jesus Ross one.