MARICOPA — In less than a minute in the opening quarter, Maricopa watched as Gilbert Williams Field quickly took a 9-0 lead and eventually led 23-0 after the first quarter.

It was a game that the Rams would never be in despite the Black Hawks being penalized for over 100 yards and giving Maricopa chances en route to a 50-19 loss.

“We gave them their first 16 points,” Maricopa coach Brandon Harris said. “We left at least 28 points out there. We got into the [red] zone what, three or four times? We throw a pick in a 1-on-1 cover situation with Mister (Chavis) and I’ll take that all the time, but we have to get the ball over the top a little more.”

Chavis would get the Rams on the board in the second quarter with a 2-yard run to cut the lead to 23-7. Maricopa would miss a golden opportunity to get back into the game when the Rams found themselves at the Black Hawks’ 3-yard line — thanks in large part by the 42 penalty yards, including 33 yards coming on back-to-back-to-back plays. However, the drive would die out when Daxton Redfern threw an interception that was returned 94-yards by Carson Speer and a 36-7 halftime lead for Williams Field.

“I think the referees, they recognized what the game should be about,” Harris said. “The helmet-to-helmet contact has got to stop. You can hear them go off like a cannon and I talked to them before the game and showed them some clips and they saw and they called it. It helped us in some cases.”

Williams Field would be called twice for targeting, or leading with the helmet and twice more for unsportsmanlike penalties.

“I don’t think we had any 15-yard personal foul penalties at all in this game and I’m proud of our kids for that. You want to win, but you want to win the right way and if you lose, you want to lose with class and dignity, and I think they did that.”

Anton Avington would provided the highlight of the night for the Rams when he had a 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 43-13. Avington ended the night with three carries for 78 yards to lead the Rams on the ground while Chavis had eight carries for 43 yards. Redfern threw for 177 yards, completing 13 of 28 passes and one touchdown.

“We leave 28 points out there and 28 points obviously makes a difference,” Harris said. “Twenty-eight plus the 19 and it’s a different ball game. We just have to start playing defense.”

The loss drops Maricopa to 3-5 overall and 0-3 in the 5A San Tan region. It’s a region with three teams ranked in the top 10 in 5A and two teams that are currently ranked in the new open division rankings.

Because of this, Harris is still optimistic about the Rams’ playoff chances. Entering Friday, Maricopa was ranked 18th in 5A.

“We have to go out and win a game,” he said. “If we win two, then we can host a game. If we win one, then we are probably on the road.”

The Rams will travel to No. 13 Queen Creek Casteel next week before closing out the season at No. 15 Gilbert.

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