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Klakulak, Kofa power past Yuma High
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David Stiles put his team on his shoulders — including when he was flying through the air — in an attempt to carry Yuma High to a win over rival Kofa on Friday at Doan Field.
But Michael Klakulak did the same for the Kings, and his 327-yard, five-touchdown night was too much as Kofa snapped a three-game losing streak to the Criminals in a 36-22 win.
“I couldn't ask for a better ending to our career,” the Kofa senior running back said while fighting back tears. “These guys worked four years, and to go out like this — I can't describe it.”
Klakulak ran the ball 42 times. His first negative run didn't come until his 23rd carry, and he went backward only twice all night. The Kofa line dominated most of the night, with Graham Ashby leading the push.
“It feels great knowing I did my job for him,” Ashby said. “I did my job and made him look good. That's everything that matters to me, to our offensive line.”
Klakulak had 213 yards at halftime for the Kings (3-7) as they bounced out to a 21-6 lead. David Giampolo recovered a fumble for the Kings on the Crims' first drive of the second half, and Klakulak converted that into seven more points and a 28-6 lead after three quarters.
But on the first play of the fourth, Stiles — taking over the rushing load for an injured Arturo Vargas in the third quarter — punched the ball in a third-and-goal from the 1. Not only did he get the two-point conversion as well, but he launched himself into the air to grab Jack Taylor's floating onside kick attempt. The Criminals (2-8) took over at their 43. Stiles got his second touchdown at the 10:05 mark on a 2-yard run, and again got the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 28-22.
But the ensuing onside kick failed this time, and Klakulak ran seven times, culminating in a 7-yard run with 6:33 left to bring the game to its final score.
“They might have gone down and scored on us, but the next drive we drove it down on them and we scored, then we stopped them,” Ashby said. “We stopped them. That's all that counts. We stopped them.”
Kofa coach Kevin Moore said the Kings did a good job of keeping their composure after the Criminals pulled to within six.
“After that we finally got them over to the sideline and told them to settle down, calm down,” Moore said. “We're still ahead, all we have to do is catch this onside kick, go down and score and we're going to win this football game. I think the kids, to their credit, calmed down and made plays. And that's all it took at the end.”
The Kofa seniors, including Ashby, had not beaten Yuma High at any level.
“This win I think is the best win ever,” Ashby said. “I've been waiting since freshman year to beat this team. And finally, all of our hard work, all of our dedication pays off.”
Kofa finished with three wins this year, matching its win total of the past two seasons combined.
“For these kids it means everything,” Moore said. “They had a rough four years, had a lot not go their way, and to end on this kind of note for these guys, I'm sure it means the world to them. To us as a coaching staff, we're so proud of the kids and their effort.”
Stiles finished with 160 yards and two Yuma High touchdowns. Vargas had 53 yards on 16 carries before getting hurt.
“It was as hard as I've seen him run all year, I guess,” Fox said. “Then again, you have to do it every single play of every single game. We didn't do that this year.”
Kofa ran 49 plays — 42 of them runs by Klakulak.
“I didn't think we'd have as easy a time as running the ball up the middle as we did all night long,” Moore said. “I told Michael, probably middle of the second quarter, ‘We're going to ride you as long as you can take us all night long.' And boy he ran hard.”
Fox said he was used to having the dominating back in this series — J.C. Baker followed by Travon Clark. He recognized that dominating performance from Klakulak tonight.
“We knew they ran outside with (Klakulak), they did it 90 percent of the time tonight,” Fox said. “We talked all week about taking the cutback away, and he just absolutely ran it down our throat. And that just comes down to lack of effort and lack of execution. And we just played a better opponent. Make no mistake about it — Kofa just thoroughly handled us tonight. ... (Yuma) didn't have enough to do it tonight. Not even close.”
This year they had the horse,” Fox said. “They fed him and they got it done.”
The game was stopped for about 20 minutes in the first quarter when Kofa's Dion Merriweather was tackled on a punt return on the Yuma sideline, breaking his leg, Moore said, and necessitating an ambulance taking him to Yuma Region Medical Center.
Kofa now trails the series 28-24.