TONOPAH – The first quarter of Friday’s football game between the Wells Leopards and the Tonopah Muckers appeared to set the stage for a wild, back-and-forth battle.
After allowing 22 points in the opening frame, all Wells did was come to life on both sides of the football in the second and third periods.
The Leopards ripped off 22 points in the second period and grabbed a 36-28 lead by halftime, slamming the offensive hammer down in the third quarter once again to the tune of 22 more.
Wells came back from an early deficit and buried Tonopah by a final score of 66-36.
The first period was a two-person-for- each-team affair, the ballclubs trading blows like a heavyweight prize fight.
Tonopah sophomore quarterback threw a nine-yard touchdown to junior Kevin Pope with 10:36 remaining in the first quarter, sophomore Brandon Scobee running for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead for the Muckers.
The Leopards wasted little time to fire a response, exactly 35 seconds.
Sophomore QB Jared Martinez hooked up with junior running back Enrique Aguilar for a 51-yard strike at the 10:01 mark. Freshman Riley Stewart knotted the score with a catch from Martinez on the conversion.
The Muckers gained a 16-8 lead with 3:41 on the clock, Otteson once again hitting Pope for a 10-yard touchdown, the duo also connecting for the conversion.
Wells went back to its bread and butter, Martinez to Aguilar.
The 37-yard touchdown pass pulled the Leopards to within two with 2:27 remaining in the opening frame, but Wells’ conversion was unsuccessful.
Tonopah’s duo went for a trio.
Otteson hooked up with Pope for a touchdown for the third time in the first quarter, Pope catching the pass from 13 yards and opening a 22-14 lead, capping a crazy 12 minutes to start the game.
The Leopards began their comeback with 10:12 remaining in the half on a seven-yard touchdown run by Martinez.
He found senior Corbin Madison on the conversion, tying the game at 22-all.
With 5:34 on the clock, Wells snagged its first lead.
Madison punched home for a two-yard rush, giving the Leopards a 28-22 lead.
Tonopah was not finished yet.
Unbelievably, the Muckers’ fourth TD came in identical fashion as their first three – an Otteson pass finding the hands of Pope in the end zone with 2:51 on the clock.
At 1:29 before the break, Wells took the lead for good.
Martinez scored on a two-yard carry then passed to Aguilar for the conversion, giving the Leopards a 36-28 halftime advantage.
Martinez opened the third quarter with a one-yard plunge and converted the two by himself for a 44-28 lead.
With 5:31 remaining in the third period, Stewart turned defense into offense, recovering a fumble for a score. Martinez ran in the conversion and the Leopards began to run away, 52-28.
Senior Levi Talbert hauled in a 66-yard pass from Martinez for a game-clinching, 30-point lead at 58-28 with 3:05 remaining in the frame.
To start the fourth quarter, Aguilar provided the capping blow with a five-yard TD on the ground.
Martinez rushed for the conversion, giving Wells a 66-28 advantage, the Leopards rattling off 38-unsanswered points.
With a new quarterback, Pope found the same result – notching his fifth touchdown reception of the game on a 22-yard toss from sophomore Vance Day with 1:34 on the clock. Day found Pope for the conversion, bringing the scoring to a close.
The Leopards lit up the scoreboard for a 66-36 victory, a game in which Wells and Tonopah combined for 102 points.
Of the Muckers’ 36 points, Pope scored 34 by himself.
He snagged five touchdown receptions and two two-point conversions, closing the game with eight catches for 96 yards.
Martinez also accounted for five total scores.
He tossed three touchdowns – throwing for 242 yards on a 15-for-28 performance – rushing for 81 yards on 19 carries with two TDs on the ground.
Otteson finished 7-for-16 for 96 yards and threw four touchdowns for Tonopah.
Aguilar led the Leopards with 148 yards receiving on nine catches with two TD receptions, rushing for another touchdown.
Scobee rushed for 167 yards on 21 carries to lead the Muckers’ running attack, and Madison led Wells with 142 yards on the ground on 22 attempts for two scores.
The Leopards were extremely balanced in their offensive attack of 487 yards (245 rushing, 242 passing).
Defensively, the Leopards had three players finish with double-digit tackles, led by senior Luke Escamilla’s 15 stops, three coming in the backfield.
Senior Oscar Casas notched 14 tackles and Aguilar tallied 10 stops.
Sophomore Charles Martinez and Stewart each recovered a fumble for the Leopards, and freshman Quinlin Jackson made an interception.
Wells (1-1 in league play) will return to Division 1A Northern-East action at 1 p.m. MST Saturday against the Braves (0-3) in Owyhee.