It’s tough for any team to come back from a 0-2 start to the season. It can derail a season, leave the team overreacting to their game plan and make decisions that leave the team going nowhere.
That wasn’t the case for the Higley Knights, winning five straight games including tonight’s 31-22 win over the Casteel Colts.
“The kids took it upon themselves to be accountable to each other and study more film and be better football players and be better teammates and it’s shown over the last five weeks,” Higley coach Eddy Zubey said.
The Knights defense had a bit of trouble dealing with senior running back Benjamin Biancas, who ran for 114 yards on 19 carries, but the defense held them at the goal-line three straight runs.
Then on the field goal, the Knights were able to make a play on the missed kick and take it to the 50-yard line, which led to a quick 10 yard running score by junior Kai Millner.
Throughout most of this game, the field position was dominated by the Knights as the team rarely were in their own side of the field when they started drives.
“It’s a big relief and it takes a little bit of pressure off the offense,” Millner said. “Shoutout to the defense for pinning them back in their own territory and just playing and balling out.”
The Colts didn’t lie down for the Knights as they immediately respond with their own touchdown drive, capped off with a 3-yard run by Biancas. After both teams punted to each other, the Knights started cooking and with 2:10 left, Millner hit senior receiver Logan Mack on a beautiful 20-yard touchdown pass to take a 15-8 lead. Given most of his passes at this point were short throws before, Millner said the play of his offensive line made him comfortable to take deep shots.
“We worked on it and I talked to them and they gave me enough time for me to sit back and do what I do and I’m just super thankful for that,” Millner said.
The Colts would take a 16-15 lead off an 11-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Dane Christensen to senior Grady Burns and a two-point conversion from Biancas. After a fumble by the Knights deep in Casteel’s territory, it looked like the game was slipping away, but the Knights rallied.
After holding Casteel to a three and out, the Knights scored immediately off a 46-yard bomb by Millner to junior Branson Heywood to make it 21-16. Two big sacks and a terrible punt later and the Knights were in scoring position again and once again Millner found his open target, this time senior tight end Alexander Lines, for a 6-yard touchdown. A field goal, a Knight's interception and though the Colts scored off a 12-yard rush by Christensen, the defense stepped up and stopped the two point conversion, ending the game.
Casteel (4-3) coach Bobby Newcombe, he said that the Knights made the adjustments and plays necessary to force his team to play catch up and force Christensen to throw it more. With this being their second loss in a row, Newcombe said it’s vital for the team to rally this bye week and get themselves ready for their game against Gilbert (3-4) on Oct. 18.
“There’s no other way,” Newcombe said. “You gotta come back, you gotta come back hard, you gotta go back to (the) drawing board and make sure you work on your craft a little bit and keep battling, keep fighting, finish off the season strong.”
Higley (5-2) looks to continue this hot streak after their bye week as they go on the road to face the undefeated Campo Verde (7-0) Oct. 18.
HHS 8 7 6 10 -- 31
CHS 8 0 8 6 – 22
HHS - Kai Millner 10 yard touchdown run 4:01 (2 point conversion by Kayden Sutter)
CHS - Benjamin Biancas 3 yard touchdown run 1:52 (2 point conversion by Biancas)
HHS - Millner to Logan Mack for 20 yard touchdown pass 2:10 (Mat Godinez Kick)
CHS -Dane Christensen to Grady Burns for a 11 yard touchdown pass 5:00 (2 point conversion by Biancas)
HHS - Millner to Branson Heywood for a 46 yard touchdown pass 0:07 (failed two point conversion)
HHS - Millner to Alexander Lines for a 6 yard touchdown pass 9:39 (Godinez Kick)
HHS - Godinez field goal from 41 yards 7:17
CHS - Christensen 11 yard touchdown run 0:56 (failed two point conversion)
2 Kai Millner Jr QB: 13-23 for 160 yards
2 Kai Millner Jr QB: 4 rush for 33 yards
11 Isaiah Eastman Sr WR: 3 rush for 8 yards
26 Peyton Hill Sr RB: 15 carry for 34 yards fumble
30 Kayden Sutter Jr RB: 2 point conversion
3 Ethan Haney Sr WR: 1 catch for 5 yards
10 Logan Mack Sr WR: 2 catch for 32 yards
11 Isaiah Eastman Sr WR: 5 catch for 26 yards
18 Branson Heywood Jr WR: 1 catch for 46 yards
26 Peyton Hill Sr RB: 2 catches for 36 yards
88 Alexander Lines Sr TE: 2 catch for 11 yards
12 Dane Christensen Jr. QB: 18-29 for 172 yards interception
2 Benjamin Biancas Sr QB: 1-1 for 2 yards
1 Isaiah Newcombe Jr WR: 2 carry for 4 yards
2 Benjamin Biancas Sr QB: 19 carry for 114 yards
12 Dane Christensen: 10 rush for 61 yards
1 Isaiah Newcombe Jr WR: 6 catch for 52 yards
2 Benjamin Biancas Sr QB: 3 catch for 27 yards
7 Jayce Knutsen Jr RB: 3 catch for 18 yards
10 Dominic Digian Jr WR:1 catch for 20 yards
20 Grady Burns Sr WR: 5 catch for 55 yards
26 AJ Murphy So RB: 1 catch for 2 yards