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Pride rolls over Central Valley in season opening victory
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Pitman’s Lawson Aviles celebrates his punt return touchdown with teammate Aric Singh during Friday night's game against Central Valley (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Friday night’s 2023 high school football matchup between Pitman and Central Valley had all the markings of a season opener in the heat of late August.

There were blown assignments and silly penalties and missed tackles and cramping. Lots and lots of cramping.

But finally, there was this: a 29-7 victory for the Pride and head coach Eric Reza, who talked a lot this offseason about changing the culture within the program. 

“The win sets a tone, and it shows the guys that all their hard work has paid off,” said Reza. “You can learn a lot from a loss, too, but a win brings that confidence that we need.”

Sophomore Lawson Aviles scored two touchdowns for the Pride, one on a head-scratching punt return late in the first quarter.

With Central Valley punting from its own 40, Aviles fielded the ball at around his own 35. He appeared to be tackled after about a 10-yard return, but the sophomore rolled over his would-be tackler, his knees never touching the ground. Aviles got up and scooted another 50-plus yards for the score, as most everybody in Joe Debely Stadium tried to figure out what just happened.

“Basically, the punt was a little short and I was going to yell ‘fire,’ which means get out of the way,” said Aviles. “But the ball just kept coming toward me, so I got the ball, made some moves, and this kid came out of nowhere and wrapped me up and tried to throw me to the ground. But I kind of rolled over him, and then my instincts were to keep going. You’ve got to keep playing until the whistle blows, you know?”

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Kolten Pruitt scores for the Pride during the game Friday (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Matthew Burciaga ran it in for a two-point conversion and the Pride led 8-0.

Up until that point, the Hawks were winning the field-position battle, and nearly scored on their previous possession when they marched to Pitman’s 6-yard line before turning over the ball on downs. 

Central Valley turned it over downs again on its ensuing possession, and the Pride cashed in eight plays later when quarterback Andrew Azevedo found Kolten Pruitt from one yard. Antonio Rosuli’s PAT made it 15-0.

“I was pleased with how our offense moved the ball from 20 to 20,” said CV coach Derrick Goblirsch. “We just need to figure out a way to punch it in down there in the red zone. And we had some letdowns on defense, knowing our assignments. But we clean up a couple of things, and I think we’re fine.”

Pitman received the kickoff to start the second half and on the first play from scrimmage, Azevedo hit Adam Quezada in stride for a 63-yard scoring strike. After Azevedo ran in for the two-point conversion, the Pride held a commanding 23-0 lead. 

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Jeremiah Mora celebrates his quarterback sack during the game against Central Valley Friday evening. The Pride won 29-7 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Pitman made it 29-0 when Aviles and Azevedo hooked up from 15 yards out with 6:58 remaining in the contest.

The Hawks were able to avert the shutout when they capped an eight-play, 29-yard drive with Darrius Jackson’s 2-yard burst into the end zone. The drive was set up by a 56-yard kickoff return from Josiah Sandoval.

Pitman will travel to Elk Grove to take on Cosumnes Oaks on Friday, before returning to Joe Debely on Sept. 1 to face Hughson. Central Valley travels next Friday to take on Hughson, the defending CIF 5-AA champion.