ROGERS — It looked as though Pulaski Robinson might roll past Rogers High just like it did a year ago when the Senators jumped to a big early lead on Friday night.
The Senators did leave Whitey Smith Stadium with a victory, but the Senators needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to secure a wild 66-58 victory.
Rogers (0-1) trailed 20-0 in the first quarter but fought back to take its only lead 58-54 with less than two minutes left in the third quarter thanks to a Hunter Loyd 15-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Bigham — his seventh of the game.
But that lead last exactly 23 seconds as Robinson running back Hunter Smith broke a tackle in the backfield and raced 59 yards for a touchdown to give the Senators the 60-58 lead.
Senior Duente Moody added a 45-yard touchdown run on his only carry of the night to push the Robinson lead to 66-58 with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Senators (2-0) held on for the win.
Robinson coach Todd Eskola said his players might have relaxed a bit after grabbing the early lead.
“Those guys are awesome,” Eskola said of Rogers. “They’ve improved so much. The defense just couldn’t get off the field. It’s going to make our team better having to play against 7A opponents.
“It’s battling adversity. I mean it’s who was still standing. Our kids are worn out. It’s great for us to come out of here.”
Senators quarterback Buddy Gaston threw five touchdowns, while Smith rushed for three.
Robinson, who defeated Rogers 35-14 a year ago, got off to a 20-0 first-quarter lead as Gaston threw two early touchdown passes. One went to P.J. Hall on a slant for 85 yards and the other was a 16-yarder to Ivan Thomas on a post route on fourth-and-7.
But Rogers fought back to get within 42-36 at halftime as Loyd found Mason Ross on a 35-yard touchdown pass on a flea-flicker on fourth down with less than two minutes left in the second quarter.
Rogers coach Mike Loyd acknowledged his team made mistakes but liked the fight the Mounties showed.
“It came down to a couple of athletes on the perimeter making some plays,” Loyd said. “It comes down to coming making a couple plays. I think the effort was there on both sides of the ball.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been involved in a game in 33 years as a head coach where we scored 58 and get beat. I’m proud of the fact we got down 20-0 and battled back and took a lead.”
• Rogers running back Sammy Zamarron, who rushed for more than 100 yards and scored three touchdowns, sat out the second half with a knee injury.
• Rogers High junior Chris Francisco, who was slated to start at defensive back and also see action at receiver, did not play Friday because of a foot injury.
• Rogers managed a two-point conversion when holder Gavin Pitts corralled a bad snap and threw to Jose Ruiz in the second quarter.
• Moody returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter for a 42-21 Senators’ lead.
PULASKI ROBINSON 66,
ROGERS HIGH 58
Joe T. Robinson.. 20 22 18 6 — 66 Rogers...............7 29 22 0 — 58 First Quarter
Rob — Smith 1 run (Kell kick), 8:29. Rob — Hall 85 pass from Gaston (Kell kick), 7:16. Rob — Thomas 16 pass from Gaston (Kick failed), 2:31.
Rog — Zamarron 53 pass from Loyd (Munoz kick), 1:48.
Rog — Zamarron 78 run (Munoz kick), 11:36. Rob — Smith 71 run (Kell kick), 11:25. Rog — Zamarron 10 pass from Loyd (Munoz kick), 10:21.
Rob — Hall 27 pass from Gaston (Kell kick), 8:54. Rob — Moody 36 interception return (Kell kick), 8:44. Rog — Bigham 16 pass from Loyd (Munoz kick), 6:50 Rog — Ross 35 pass from Loyd (Pitts to Ruiz), 1:53.
Rob — Hall 17 pass from Gaston (Run failed), 10:33. Rog — Ross 14 pass from Loyd (Munoz kick), 5:57. Rob — Nunally 64 pass from Gaston (kick failed), 4:07.
Rog — Ross 63 pass from Loyd (Loyd to Ross) , 3:53.
Rog — Bigham 15 pass from Loyd (Munoz kick), 1:44.
Rob — Smith 59 run (Run failed), 1:23.
Rob — Moody 45 run (kick failed), 4:09.
Paul Boyd can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NWAPaulb.