Green Valley’s Conor Perkins might have felt the weight of the world on his shoulders with time winding down Friday night, but if he did, he never let on.
Instead, the senior kicker calmly booted a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give Green Valley a 39-38 win over visiting Las Vegas.
“It’s what we all live for,” Perkins said. “That’s why we go to practice every day.”
It was a surprise that Perkins got the chance to even try the winning kick. Las Vegas had the ball on fourth-and-6 with 20 seconds to go. The Wildcats lined up to punt, but Andrew Moreland pulled the ball down and ran, stepping out of bounds at the Las Vegas 33 — 1 yard short of a first down — with 11 seconds to play.
Perkins thought he might be called on to try a 50-yarder, but the Gators decided to try to get him a little closer. Christian Lopez hit Markus Varner with a pass near the right sideline. Varner was unable to get out of bounds, but the clock stopped with the 13-yard gain that moved the ball to the 20.
Lopez then spiked the ball with a second left to set up Perkins’ winning kick.
“I thought we were going to kick the field go right away at 11 (seconds),” Perkins said. “But coach somehow pulled out one second, and I’m just glad for the opportunity.”
Though coach Brian Castro has sent Perkins out to attempt a 61-yarder this season, he believed his senior needed to get a bit closer.
“We knew we needed a few more (yards),” Castro said. “He’s got a big leg. But we took a chance and threw it down there, and it worked out.”
It was the second game-winning kick of the year for Perkins, who hit the winning extra point in a 42-41 overtime victory over Palo Verde earlier this season.
“It’s unbelievable,” Castro said. “We feel like if we can just get it to the 35-yard line or so, we have a chance to score points. He’s definitely invaluable to us.”
The winning field goal was also sweet redemption for the UNLV-bound kicker. After Varner’s 26-yard TD catch from Lopez with 5:45 to play cut the lead to 38-30, the seventh-ranked Gators (4-2, 2-0 Northeast) were called for illegal procedure on the point after, and Perkins missed the longer attempt.
Perkins caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Lopez with 2:15 to go, but the Gators were forced to go for two, and Lopez’s pass fell incomplete.
Eighth-ranked Las Vegas (3-3, 1-1) led 31-10 after an Elias Miller 10-yard TD run with 8:39 to go in the third quarter. But the Gators came alive from there and battled back.
“I had a lot of faith in my team,” Perkins said. “The offense was working well late in the fourth quarter, so I had some pretty good faith that we could get down to field-goal range.”
Moreland had appeared to make a game-saving play on Green Valley’s previous possession, when he pushed Chavez out of bounds a yard shy of the first down on fourth-and-10.
But the fake punt with 11 seconds left turned out to open the door for Perkins and the Gators.
“They fight their butt off, and they believe that they can score and stop people when we have to,” Castro said.
Moreland rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass to lead Las Vegas.
Lopez completed 29 of 48 passes for 419 yards and five TDs. Giovanni Hernandez had five catches for 128 yards, and Kyler Chavez caught nine balls for 88 yards for the Gators.