The Gilbert Tigers rode hot quarterback play from senior Will Plummer and six defensive takeaways in a 50-47 home win over Sunrise Mountain in 5A football on Friday night.
Gilbert’s offense stumbled out of the gates, giving up a fumble mere plays into the opening drive and allowing an early touchdown to the Mustangs. The Tigers responded with a field goal, and trimmed the lead to 6-3, scored a touchdown on a long pass their next drive to go up 10-6, and held on to the lead the rest of the game.
Sunrise Mountain’s offense heated up in the second half, but Plummer and the Tigers were able to score enough to hang on to the lead.
Using his quick feet, Plummer evaded pass rushers all night, giving his receivers time to get open downfield and making accurate throws for long completions. If nobody was open, he took off downfield for effective runs. He ended the night with five passing touchdowns and one on the ground, and effectively led the team to a season-high 50 points. A bit better execution, said coach Derek Zellner, would have led to even more.
“I think we have the best quarterback in the state, and one of the best receivers in the state. When we’re on it, we’re a very dangerous team offensively, like we have for the past five or so years,” Zellner said.
On the other end, Sunrise Mountain moved the ball well, and hardly ever punted. Just like Plummer, Mustang quarterback Alex Gianoli was slippery in the pocket and extended several plays with his legs. However, the Tigers were able to stop several possessions by causing turnovers. They intercepted five passes and recovered one fumble.
“We preached all week, and looked at the opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on in last year’s game. We knew we had to take advantage of those, and today we did it,” Zellner said.
The Mustangs still scored 47 points, including a 43-yard pass as time expired in the first half and three touchdowns in the final quarter.
Zellner called it a “bend but don’t break” defense that allowed just enough of a cushion for the high-powered offense to hang on.
With three minutes on the clock, Gilbert had possession but was unable to run out the game, and had to punt. However, as it had all game, the defense made big plays at the right time. The Tigers forced a turnover on downs with a minute left, and knelt the remaining seconds off the clock for the win.
“We haven’t been able to finish those close games for the last couple years,” said Plummer, “so it felt great to be able to get that stop and do it tonight.”
Zellner could not help but smile, even showing off a few dance moves, as the team huddled after the game. He called this game the signature win thus far in his time coaching the Tigers.
“This is one of the highest-ranked teams we play for a while, so it was great to get a win,” Plummer added. Of course there’s a lot to work on, execution and getting rid of some of those mistakes, but tonight we’re going to celebrate this.
The Tigers (3-2) travel to Campo Verde (5-0) next Friday. Sunrise Mountain (2-2) plays its second road game in as many weeks at Verrado (1-3).
SUN - Gianoli 15 run (conversion no good), 8:13
GIL - Uvaydov 30 field goal, 3:29
GIL - Zellner 42 pass from Plummer (Uvaydov kick), 11:49
GIL - Hironaka 55 pass from Plummer (kick failed), 5:46
GIL - Yanez 20 pass from Plummer (kick failed), 3:20
SUN - Arnold 43 run (Black kick), 1:41
SUN - Washington 43 pass from Gianoli (Black kick), 0:00
GIL - Fulton 2 pass from Plummer (conversion no good), 10:05
SUN - Underhill 5 pass from Gianoli (conversion no good), 4:00
GIL - Plummer 1 run (Uvaydov kick), 0:00
GIL - Allgood 20 interception return (Uvaydov kick), 11:37
SUN - Duran 12 pass from Gianoli (conversion good), 10:09
GIL - Hironaka 80 pass from Plummer (conversion good), 9:50
SUN - Gianoli 1 run (conversion no good), 8:35
SUN - Gianoli 1 run (Black kick)