RIO RANCHO – Wide receiver Dello Davis may be the smallest of players to take the field each time he steps on the turf for the Duke City Gladiators, but his game is anything but small.
The 5-foot, 8-inch, 165-pound Davis and new Duke City quarterback Ramone Atkins clicked on the field Saturday against Tucson as if they’ve been playing together for years.
Catching passes almost at will, Davis finished with 15 catches for 154 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Gladiators to a 57-52 victory at the Rio Rancho Events Center.
With Davis to help him pad his numbers, Atkins completed 28 of 38 passes for 291 yards and seven TDs for Duke City’s second straight win after starting the season 0-3.
Two of those scoring passes went to Jared Elmore, including the game winner from 4 yards out with 11 seconds left.
“It’s a bread-and-butter play for us,” Elmore said. “It’s been very successful for us. Dello requires a lot of attention and the route he was running made the corner who was covering me have to stay true to the wall, which allowed me to duck into that open void right there where he usually runs his high motion. Ramone just put the ball in the right place, and they pay me to catch passes.”
Atkins said Elmore was not the primary receiver on the play.
“Obviously, the play was designed for Dello,” he said. “But I stayed true to my reads that my coaches and (injured quarterback) Nate Davis help me with, and I found the open guy and I delivered a strike.”
That play was indicative of what Atkins can do for the team, said coach Sherman Carter.
“It’s awesome to have Ramone, the sky is the limit with him,” he said. “He’s getting better every game, And it’s amazing to watch. I can say something to him and he picks it up. It’s nice to have a quarterback that’s coachable. He understands there’s a lot to learn, and he’s willing to do it.”
Atkins’ game was not without flaws. His late fumble gave the Sugar Skulls (1-3) the opportunity to take a 49-42 lead in the fourth quarter.
But it took just to two plays for the Gladiators to tie it on Atkins’ first touchdown throw to Elmore.
Tucson regained the lead with 55 seconds left on a 49-yard field goal, setting the stage for more Atkins and Elmore highlights.
“I started off really slow, and I’m just glad that Ramone continued to trust me and gave me a shot to win the game,” Elmore said. “It was a great team win. The trenches played outstanding. Ramone had a little pressure, but for the most part, he was clean cut and he was able to make his reads. Defense played really good. We have to find a way that when the defense makes stops, to score. We just haven’t found that rhythm, but I think we will.”
As long as the Gladiators can keep from untimely mistakes, they should be fine, Carter said.
“We felt like we started beating ourselves,” he said. “It wasn’t anything they were doing. We understand that we started making mistakes and we let them back in the game. We talked about it all week, let’s not beat ourselves. And that’s what we started doing. We calmed down, got our composure and we finished. We’re excited about what happened at the end, but we know we still have got a lot of work to do.”
And it doesn’t hurt to have a player of Davis’ stature out there.
“Dello, you can’t go wrong with Dello Davis,” Carter said. “Dello is going to make you right. And that’s what we tell the quarterbacks. Look at Dello.”