Lovington quarterback Casey Perez can make opposing defense just look silly sometimes.
Or, as Capital’s Gio Muñoz said, “He’s a baller. He’s a baller for sure.”
For the better part of Friday night’s nondistrict game, Perez had Capital guessing far too often on what he would do. More often than not, those guesses were wrong. Perez threw for 236 yards and ran for another 116 with three rushing touchdowns and two passing scores as the Wildcats rallied to beat the host Jaguars, 42-26, at Jaguar Field.
And while it was an impressive performance, Perez did not quite see it that way.
“They [the Jaguars] did a really good job,” Perez said. “They gave us a lot of looks that we weren’t expecting. The second half, my receivers were making great catches. I was throwing bad balls. I didn’t have a good game, I feel like, but those guys made it up for me.”
Of course, what Perez did paled in comparison to his Herculean effort last week against Roswell. He threw for
307 yards and four TDs while running for 208 yards and a rushing score in a 76-54 loss to the reigning Class 5A champion Coyotes. Wildcats head coach Anthony Gonzales said that his team’s fortunes ride on the senior’s legs and right arm.
“That’s really what our offense is based on — putting a guy back there who has the ability to stretch plays with his legs,” Gonzales said. “And his leadership is unbelievable.”
That quality was put to the test in the first half by a courageous Capital defense that Lovington (2-1) had on its heels when D’andre Martinez picked off a Perez pass at the Capital 15 yard-line with 4:17 left in the first quarter. Capital was holding a 7-6 lead.
The Jaguars (1-2) countered Perez’s one-man show with a bruising rushing game that accumulated 281 yards — many of those from the duo of juniors Luke Padilla (121 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown) and Gio Muñoz (119 yards, two touchdowns). It was Padilla’s 64-yard touchdown scamper down the right sideline that gave Capital its lead at 6:01 of the opening quarter.
The margin grew to 13-6 when Capital quarterback Dion Martinez found Padilla open on a rollout pass to the right side for a 19-yard touchdown with 7:55 left in the first half. Momentum can be fleeting against a quick-strike offense with a cagey quarterback, and Perez turned the tide in three drives.
The first came after the Wildcats defense stopped the Jaguars at the Lovington 31 with the visitors holding a 14-13 lead. Perez used his legs to run for 31 yards on the ensuing drive, then hit Julian Fuentes with a 20-yard pass to put the ball at the Capital 6. After a holding penalty negated Brian Tapia’s 2-yard touchdown run, Perez simply churned up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown with 34.3 seconds left in the half for a 21-13 edge.
The second half kickoff proved to be a boon for the Wildcats, as Fuentes ran it 72 yards to the Capital 10. Then came the lone non-Perez score of the night: an 11-yard touchdown scamper by Tapia around the left side for a 28-13 lead just 1:01 into the third. Capital responded with a 74-yard drive that ended with a 28-yard touchdown by Muñoz to cut the margin to 28-20, but Capital’s defense was flummoxed by Perez.
On the ensuing drive, Perez went 4-for-5 for 73 yards and ran for another 20 yards, capping it with a 32-yard touchdown to Fuentes to make it 35-20. The duo connected again on the next drive for a 21-yard touchdown with 11:26 to make it 42-20.
“Their quarterback is such a dangerous sucker, and he makes you make bad decisions,” Capital head coach Bill Moon said.
Capital can’t say it didn’t have chances. The defense forced three turnovers, with two coming in the fourth quarter after the lead was 42-26. However, Dion Martinez threw a pass that was tipped to Lovington cornerback Ayden Garcia. Then the signal caller fumbled a snap at the Capital 15 after the defense stopped a Lovington drive with 1:07 left.
The Jaguars had seven of their 10 possessions advance into Lovington territory, but one was stopped on downs and Dion Martinez threw two picks.
“We just need to finish,” Dion Martinez said. “We just need to fix it and move on. Some of us are just getting excited. Instead of trying to make the big play, we just need to trust our plays.”
Of course, having a player like Perez would help immensely.
Unfortunately, he’s a luxury the Wildcats have.