Some schools wait awhile. Some have never experienced the thrill of hoisting the Gold Ball. For the Casteel Colts that won't be an issue. This was a quick rise to the top of the 3A mountain.
In year number three of existence, albeit without a senior class, Coach Spencer Stowers and the Colts reached the summit of high school success winning 35-28 over Tucson Pusch Ridge Academy in the 3A state championship game Saturday night at Campo Verde high school.
It wasn't easy. By any stretch. Turnovers plagued the Colts early. A key injury took a hit - or so we thought-out to their explosive offense. The top-ranked Lions throwing everything but the kitchen-since at them.
A Mack Johnson fumble at the 11-yard line was the initial miscue setting them back on this championship evening. The Lions struck two plays later with a Gavin Davis burst from six out.
Cue Gunner Cruz. The offense has put up points all season (692 to be exact). So why should tonight be different? A six-play eighty-yard drive was the response, culminating in a Kyheem Waleed 44 yard connection from his signal caller.
A 35-point explosion in the 2nd Quarter kept the crowd entertained. Each team responding to each other. A Zach Nelson 12 yard score gave Casteel a lead on a 9 play 80 yard drive.
But Casteel coughed it back up and four plays later a Mitch Maas 36 yard reception tied it at 14. Mack Johnson broke one for 15 and Waleed a second from 26 were the other two scores in the first 24 minutes.
"They're a good football team.” Cruz said. “They kept fighting. The two fumbles hurt us without question. Take those away who knows -maybe we put it away earlier. It's mute now. We stayed composed. My boys kept fighting,"
That they did. 330 yards of offense in the first half gave them a 28-21 cushion.
With a chance to break it open to start the second half Cruz threw a pick to Maas. Turnover number three didn't amount to much for the Lions as they went three and out.
Pusch Ridge showed why they are ranked no. 1 as they tied it with 9:42 remaining.
Back to work. Actually Mack to work.
A 13 play 84-yard drive featuring six carries from Johnson was the decisive break the Colts needed to put this away. Johnson sprinted in from 2 yards out on 4th and Goal for the go-ahead score.
"I'm ready for the ball at all times. It's just great coach has this kind of confidence in me. That was a great opponent and we just grinded it out tonight," stated the tired Johnson.
Four defensive stops later Casteel made history. Defensive lineman Jehrt Flitton was ecstatic.
"We've put in so much work and it's paid off. We knew they had a mobile Quarterback and that was their offense. Couldn't be happier for this group of guys. We allowed some yards but at the end all that matters is we got one final stop.
Coach Stowers carried that precedent.
"Great group of kids they bought in three years ago. Everyone associated with the program has believed in what we are doing. Just a special team that has worked hard and they deserve it."
Lookout 5A the Colts are headed your way.