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Monsters Win Home Opener


Now it's official — the EAC football team is the real deal. It is not a fog in the distance or a club with a bunch of question marks. The Gila Monsters added an exclamation point to their young season as they whipped up on the Arizona Western (AZW) Matadors 44-2 Saturday night at the John T. Mickelson Stadium. Saturday's game spoke volumes about the type of team EAC is. "Basically, we just wanted to show people that we could win and that we aren't some pushover type of team," EAC running back Amos Allen said. "We've got a lot of new faces who are all ready to take it all the way, so everybody needs to run." Opposing teams' offenses are having a heck of time trying to run from the EAC defense because the Gila Monsters have the nation's best defense at the NJCAA level. EAC has allowed only two points — so far — this season. It wasn't even the defense that gave those points up; it was the offensive unit that fumbled in the AZW end zone that gave the Matadors its only score of the night. "It's still a shutout in our eyes," EAC defensive end Danzel Issac said. "We still got the No. 1 defense in the country right now, and everything is just going hand-in-hand for us right now." It was Issac, along with the rest of the EAC defense, who got things rolling for the Monsters Saturday night. Isaac sacked AZW quarterback Benjhamin Saccomano on the first play of the game, and linebacker Marcus Myles backed that up with a sack of his own on the game's second play. EAC forced Arizona Western to punt after going three-and-out, but Issac busted through the AZW line to block the punt, scooped it up and scampered downfield for the game's first touchdown. "I've got to give all the credit to my Dad (EAC assistant coach Bob O'Mera). He's our special teams coach, and he'd scouted and told me that we'd block the first punt," EAC head coach John O'Mera said. "He noticed that their kicker gets a little too close to the wall, so all week we worked on attacking the wall and trying to drag them back and get the block. The block was a big-time momentum swing to get things going." The EAC defense collected three more sacks on the night from John Woodard, Alton Boudreaux and Herman Matthews. "You can't even begin to say enough about the defense," O'Mera said. "They played great. We weren't really happy last week with how we played emotionally, but we fixed it this week, and we played the real Eastern Arizona defense." O'Mera was very happy about his team's defensive effort after the game and spoke about what his club did to improve on that side of the ball after the Pima game. "We know that we have great players on defense, but last week they were just kind of going through the motions," O'Mera said. "For us to be able to beat a team like this — a good football team that we were able to get out and jump on is great — the biggest thing we spoke about this week was keeping the emotion up, celebrating together and keeping the momentum of the game on our side." Offensively, the Monsters had a lot of spark coming from the backfield. Allen had the first EAC offensive touchdown on a 10-yard scamper, and Lester Graham made the score 18-0 on a 2-yard run as the clock hit double zeros to end the first quarter. O'Mera threw some trickery Western's way with 2:42 left in the second quarter as Allen took the pitch from quarterback Gabe Eliserio, stopped and chucked a 44-yard touchdown pass on a halfback pass to Safford native CJ Gardner. The touchdown pass was the first time Allen had thrown one since early in high school, he said. "I felt good tonight. Our offense is all about execution, blocking and staying on our assignments," Allen said. "I felt like we could do a lot better on offense because our defense played so well." EAC got the ball back quickly, and with the final seconds of the half ticking off the clock, kicker Sergio Valasco booted a 51-yard field goal that bounced off the cross bar and hopped over to give EAC a 27-0 halftime lead. Allen found himself on the receiving end of a Gabe Eliserio 36-yard TD catch midway through the third quarter to give EAC a 34-2 advantage. "I think that our backs played well, but we can get better," O'Mera said. O'Mera almos mentioned that the Monster's slipped into cruise control offensively in the second half and would like to see the offense "stay sharp and not go flat like we did," O'Mera said. Graham rushed for a game-high 82 yards on 13 carries; Arthur Weaver went 39 yards on nine attempts, and Allen had 26 yards on 14 carries. Part of the reason the EAC offense went a little flat was that the Gila Monsters played its second-and-third string players for the majority of the third and fourth quarters to give the back-ups some valuable playing time. The EAC secondary shined brightly in the second half as Armando Murillo picked off two AZW passes and scampered 68 yards to paydirt on one of his two interceptions. It was INT No. 2 that scored the game's final points, giving EAC the 44-2 victory. Fellow defensive back Ted Riley also recorded an EAC interception. Murillo and Riley both have three INTs each this season. Game notes Arizona Western mustered only 25 yards on the ground during the entire game, and the EAC defense limited the passing game to only 33 yards on a whopping 27 attempts. Eliserio has thrown for 192 yards and three touchdowns through the season's first three games. The Gila Monsters' win against Arizona Western was the first time that EAC had beaten the Matadors in seven years. Through three games, Graham is the EAC leading rusher with 233 yards and four touchdowns. Perry Monzulla is second with 183 yards and leads EAC with five TDs after playing in only two games. To make it even more impressive, Monzulla has scored the five TDs on only eight carries for an average of nearly 23 yards per touch. O'Mera was very pleased with the huge crowd at the game Saturday night saying, "They were noisy and rowdy, and you've got to take your hat off to them because that's a great home field advantage with a 12th man like that."

Article written by Andy Hansen of the Eastern Arizona Courier