Amphi outlasts Sahuarita 35-28 to stir up the Division IV playoff pictureby Andy Morales on Oct. 12, 2013, under Sports
The standings of Division IV/Section II just got thrown in a blender Friday night. With only one team getting an automatic playoff berth from each section, the only record that counts at this point is the sectional mark.
Rio Rico beat Palo Verde (30-21) and Amphitheater beat Sahuarita (35-28). Safford is also in the mix since they did not have a sectional game Friday night.
Walden Grove beat Santa Rita (44-12) in the other game of the section, practically knocking Santa Rita out of contention.
This is how the section looks at this point:
1: Sahuarita (3-1)
2: Safford (2-1)
2: Palo Verde (2-1)
4: Rio Rico (2-2)
4: Amphitheater (2-2)
6: Walden Grove (1-2)
7: Santa Rita (0-3)
Despite their loss at Amphi, Sahuarita is still in control of their own destiny. The Mustangs host last-place Santa Rita on the 25th before traveling to Palo Verde on the final Friday of the regular season (November 1).
Safford lost to Sahuarita three weeks ago so their only chance at a sectional title is if they win out and Sahuarita gets another loss. Palo Verde also controls their own destiny if they win out. Rio Rico and Amphi need help to win the section but they can still sneak into the playoffs with an at-large bid if they win out.
Amphitheater stayed alive by pulling off the upset over Sahuarita on Friday night thanks, in part, to another great performance from senior quarterback Ray Holbrook.
Holbrook threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns in Amphi’s close loss to Safford last week and 256 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Sahuarita. Holbrook has slowly become one of the hottest weapons for head coach Brandon Willard.
A longtime assistant coach in the Phoenix area, Amphitheater called on Willard last year when the legendary coach Vern Friedli retired. Willard went 1-9 in his first year but a great showing this summer in the 7-on-7 summer camps raised a few eyebrows.
“Holbrook didn’t get a chance last year,” said Willard. “But he has grown a lot and he has made some great choices and has not thrown an interception in the last two games. He has grown into a leader on our team.”
Also coming up big for the Panthers was junior Dante Anderson. Anderson is typically the second rushing option for Willard, with senior Tony Villa rushing on more than twice as many carries on the season, but Anderson carried the ball 28 times for 167 yards on Friday night.
But the yards collected by Holbrook and Anderson was not the whole story – not even close.
Sahuarita scored the first touchdown of the game on a 41-second drive that covered 57 yards thanks to a 51-yard scamper by junior Geovan Neuser. It was not the last time each team would strike so quickly.
After a couple of punts, Amphi got on the board when Holbrook hit Anderson on a 32-yard strike on a six-second drive that was set up by a 42 yard punt return by Carlito Jenkins.
Mustang senior Kayden Bedolla returned the kickoff into Amphi territory and yardage was added on to his return thanks to a facemask penalty. Another facemask set Sahuarita up with a first down at the 5 yard line but a loss on the next carry was followed by a fumble.
It was not the last time Amphi would stop Sahuarita from scoring from inside the 5.
After a couple of punts, Amphi put together a 12-play drive to go ahead on a 1-yard plunge from Villa to give the Panthers a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Two more punts was followed by a costly fumble by Sahuarita that came as a result of a long snap that was delivered before the quarterback was ready. Amphi took over at Sahuarita’s 26 yard line after the turnover but a holding call helped negate the excellent field position and they gave up the ball on downs.
Sahuarita gave it right back on downs and Amphi put together a 9-play drive with another 1-yard score (Anderson) to put the Panthers up 21-7 with 57.7 seconds left in the first half.
The Mustangs received the kick at their own 44 with 50.9 seconds left and Calvin Jenkins hit Milo Fragoso for a 56-yard TD strike over the defense to cut the lead down to 21-14.
Amphi got the ball at their own 20 yard line with 33.2 seconds left and Anderson was stopped for no gain. The Panthers appeared willing to run the clock out but Anderson ripped off a 27-yard run to bring the ball to midfield with 19.8 seconds left.
Anderson rushed for 18 yards on his next carry to bring the ball down to the 35 with 10.8 seconds left and Holbrook hit Anderson for 35 yards to score again with 3.6 seconds left to go up 28-14 at the half.
It was the last pass Anderson would catch in the game and he wound up with 80 yards on 5 catches with two touchdowns.
Amphi took the ball to start the second half and they put together a 16-play drive that ate up almost 8 minutes and Jesus Berrera capped it off with a 4-yard touchdown run to put Amphi up 35-14.
Sahuarita gave the ball back on downs and that was followed by several punts but a huge runback set Sahuarita up at Amphi’s 30 yard line with 2:42 left in the third. Jenkins wasted little time and he found Fragoso for a 30-yard score to make it 35-21.
Fragoso would pull down a game-high 110 yards receiving in the game.
A couple more punts followed but disaster struck for Amphi when they muffed a punt at their own 23 as the clock expired after the third quarter. Jenkins rushed for 16 yards and then 3 more to cut the lead down to 35-28 with 11:07 left in the game. Amphi was forced to punt and all momentum had switched to Sahuarita.
The Mustangs got the ball back with 9:37 left and Bedolla turned in a 39-yard run to set them up with a first down at Amphi’s 3 yard line. The last time Amphi’s defense was in this position they forced a fumble but this time they forced a turnover on downs.
Four straight rushing attempts netted Sahuarita a 1-yard loss and Amphi took the ball over at the 4 with 7:22 left.
Amphi put in another long drive but a fumble at Sahuarita’s 12 yard line kept the Mustangs in the game with 4:55 left.
Olen Brown turned the corner and came up with a 29-yard gain and it looked like Sahuarita was on their way to finally taking the game over. The Mustangs had a first down at Amphi’s 45 with 2:55 left but a sack by Armando Harmon combined with an intentional grounding call ended any chance and Amphi eventually took the ball over on downs with 2:08 left.
Willard called the win the biggest of his career and thanked his team for the win but he reminded them they still have goals to reach.
As mentioned earlier, Sahuarita is still in good shape but their margin of error grew slimmer. It’s not often that a David Rodriguez coached team will get stopped twice from inside the 5 yard line in the same game. I doubt it will ever happen again.
Sahuarita brings many different looks with a few quarterback and rushing options with probably the best kicking game in Arizona. They are still the standard under Rodriguez in the division while Amphitheater appears to be back to its winning ways under Willard.
“We have suffered a lot of downs with not too many ups,” explained Willard. “Our guys have a lot of obstacles in life and we are fighting to help them know what victory tastes like.”
Willard has three children and one of them (Mariah) is a cheerleader at the University of Arizona. But three kids is evidently not enough, considering his wife Rachel is expecting baby number 4…
Amphitheater has a new athletic building located on the south side of the football field. Besides a large snack bar, the building houses rooms for football on game days rather than having teams walk a block away to the locker rooms.
It also sports a huge “A” that is lighted.
The Panthers also changed their helmets from green to black, signaling the beginning of a new era.
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