La Quinta High School coach Dan Armstrong said the only reason Vincent Guzman was playing running back and returning punts was due to necessity because of injuries and benching issues.
And that turns out to be a blessing in disguise.
Returning punts for the first time, Guzman returned his very first one 70 yards for the game’s first touchdown. He also continued to be impressive in the backfield, scoring three more touchdowns, all before halftime, as the Blackhawks beat host Coachella Valley 56-0 on Friday in a Desert Valley League game.
Guzman finished with 131 yards rushing to go with his three touchdowns, but only had two carries in the second half.
“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Armstrong said smiling. “We lost Kenyon (Williams) and Turbo (Chris Rom-Turibio) to injuries and we were figuring out what to do. We moved him to tailback from receiver, and he’s been a natural.
“He has a knack with the ball in his hand. But we can’t play him as much on defense or wide receiver.”
A week ago, Guzman had 160 yards rushing and five touchdowns. And it wasn’t until Wednesday when he found out he was going to be returning punts.
On his first attempt, it went nearly perfect.
“At first, I bobbled it because it took a weird bounce,” Guzman said. “When I looked up, I saw a big hole and I had some great blocking.”
Guzman’s second punt return went for 30 yards. After that, the Arabs punted away from Guzman.
Luckily for the Blackhawks, Rom-Turibio made his return as well. Doing most of his damage in the third quarter, Rom-Turibio rushed for 141 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 61 and 41 yards.
For the game, the Blackhawks rushed for 370 yards.
With the way Guzman is playing, and how Rom-Turibio looked in his return, La Quinta could be putting things together at just the right moment. The Blackhawks face defending DVL champion Palm Springs next week.
“It’s not so much we’re getting healthy, but guys are developing,” Armstrong said, pointing out the Blackhawks started three freshmen. “The future looks bright.”
Defensively, the Blackhawks had two strong stands to preserve their shutout.
In the second quarter, Coachella Valley’s Horacio Solis intercepted a pass and returned it to the Blackhawks’ 19.
The Arabs got all the way down to the 3-yard line, but were stalled. On fourth-and-goal from the three, the Arabs elected to kick a 20-yard field goal that sailed wide left with 44.7 remaining in the first half.
In the fourth quarter, the Arabs got a long return from Noah Torres that put the ball on the Blackhawks 38-yard line late in the third quarter.
Coachella Valley drove to the 7-yard line, but were stopped on consecutive plays to turn the ball over on downs with 6:05 remaining in the game.
“I was really happy about that last stop,” Armstrong said. “We had back-up guys in there. When they got into the game, we wanted them to play hard and they did.”
The Blackhawks also received some big plays, including Patrick Lucas’ 55-yard interception return for a touchdown at the start of the second half.
Coachella Valley only managed 76 yards of total offense. The Arabs host Cathedral City on Friday.