New Mexico Highlands alum Ramone Atkins, a first-year pro, guided Duke City to a 50-28 win over the Bay Area Panthers Saturday evening at the Rio Rancho Events Center.
Atkins, in his first significant playing time, threw five TD passes with no interceptions as the Gladiators improved to 1-3. Bay Area dropped to 1-3.
“That win feels great,” first-year coach Sherman Carter said of his initial victory. “We knew Ramone could do a good job and he did. But he still has a few little things to work on. Just little things.”
Gladiators QB Nate Davis, out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL, has been serving as Adkins’ mentor.
“He’s making a lot of progress. Oh, man, he’s improved a lot,” Davis said. “In his first game all he wanted to do was throw bullets. But in arena ball you have to throw with touch, and that’s what he’s learned to do.”
Three of those five TD passes went to wide receiver Dello Davis, who had 105 yards in receptions. The other two scoring throws went to Jared Elmore and Darryl Stonum.
On the ground, Devonte Jackson led the way with 24 yards and La Cueva alum Ronnie Daniels had 9 yards on four carries.
Defensively, ex-Manzano and Eastern New Mexico defender Jayson Serda had a team-high 5.5 tackles, along with half a sack.
Bay Area appeared to be making headway midway in the third when it scored on a Duane Gary 18-yard run and Gary’s conversion run to cut its deficit to 29-20.
On Duke City’s next possession, things got somewhat tense when the Gladiators faced a fourth-and-9 from their 16. That’s when Atkins hit Davis for a 16-yard gain to the Bay Area 18, which preceded another Atkins-to-Davis touchdown pass, this time for 6 yards.
With 54 seconds left in the period McCoy scored again, on a fumble recovery. It was 43-20 heading to the final 15 minutes.
The Panthers never got closer than 15 points down the stretch.
The announced crowd was 2,618.
Duke City ends its four-game home stretch Saturday when the Tucson Sugar Skulls visit the Events Center.