Citizen Staff Writer
SANTA RITA 28 CATALINA FOOTHILLS 21
The hardest part of Friday night for the unbeaten Santa Rita High School Eagles was their team huddle after their 28-21 victory against the host Catalina Foothills.
Coach Jeff Scurran blistered their ears for having heads and bodies somewhere else throughout the night – perhaps on phantom foe and Class 4A Gila Region rival Palo Verde, which will become a reality on Oct. 31.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Scurran, who proceeded to say plenty to reporters about the ill designs of his team, which improved to 7-0 overall after the nonleague victory.
“I’m glad to get away (with the win). We were sloppy. We’ve played the worst we’ve played all year – giving up two ‘Hail Mary’ passes in the second quarter. We did get tough at the end, though. We escaped last week and again tonight.”
Santa Rita, which avoided a near-upset last week to Amphi, hosts Douglas next week before playing Palo Verde on Halloween in a game expected to crown the Gila Region champion. Palo Verde (7-1, 4-0) beat Amphi 31-22 Friday night.
In the meantime, perfectionist Scurran is going to try to make his team forget Friday night ever happened.
“We missed too many blocks. We let them gain too many yards,” said Santa Rita tight end/linebacker Matt Sanchez, who gave the Eagles the big play that led to the win.
In the fourth quarter, with 7:19 to play, Sanchez slipped by the Foothills coverage up the middle, caught an Ian Garlets pass and raced 79 yards downfield, but fumbling for bad measure.
But Santa Rita recovered, setting up Garlets for a 2-yard quarterback sneak and the game-winning touchdown.
The Santa Rita defense then toughened as Catalina Foothills, with Breck Ashdown and Adam Larriva alternating at quarterback, tried to mount a comeback. Garlets, also a safety on the Eagles defense, and 5-foot-7 defensive back Chris Mulford broke up long Falcons passes.
Mulford’s pass breakup late in the game atoned for earlier allowing Ashdown, while playing wide receiver, to get behind him and grab a 22-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter for Foothills’ first score.
With Santa Rita up 21-7, the Falcons pulled within 21-14 on a second-quarter, 40-yard bomb to David Graham.
The Falcons (3-4, 0-1 in 4A Sonoran Region) tied the game at 21 on the first play of the third quarter when Garlets fumbled attempting to retreat for a pass and Ernie Escarcega went 20 yards for the score.
“You have to give credit to them,” said Foothills coach Matt Johnson. “They battled when they had to. Hats off to them, but I’m proud of the effort my kids gave. So close.”
The bigger Falcons looked the part of a winner on the first drive as their offensive line pushed the Eagles down to the Santa Rita 3-yard line before Ashdown was thrown for a 5-yard loss on third down and a field goal try failed.
“They are bigger, but they didn’t wear us down,” said Sanchez. “Coach Scurran’s teams are too well-conditioned.”