Decimated by injuries, the Skyline Coyotes played their linemen both ways in Friday’s 58-21 loss to Queen Creek.
The Skyline offensive line handled a six-man rotation and with no defensive linemen active, the six played on the other side of the ball, too. In the trenches, the Coyotes did not allow a single sack, and Head Coach George Hawthorne gave all credit to the players:
“They’re dogs. Five dogs that really wanted it. They wanted to do better, to improve. They love each other and wanted to work hard.”
Several players left the program after the firing of Head Coach Angelo Paffumi, creating challenges for Hawthorne to fix. The coach added that the team returns about six players with varsity experience this year, including one of the six offensive linemen.
Injuries benched six of Skyline’s starters, and as the team worked to adjust, the Bulldogs took control.
Senior running back Dayson Coleman rushed for 3 TD and 131-yards, and Queen Creek held the reigns with a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Junior defensive back Krew Jackson posed a threat in the secondary and delivered on a 42-yard pick six off of a pass thrown by Skyline’s senior quarterback, Blake Roebuck.
Skyline used long, drawn-out possessions to wear down the Bulldog defense. Two of the Coyotes’ late-game scoring drives saw more than 15 plays. The late-third quarter drive ending on a 3-yard TD run by junior Zeke Branham marked a culmination of a nine-minute, 80-yard drive; the other an 86-yard drive accented by a 4-yard Roebuck pass to senior Cory O’Bannon.
Branham rallied to score one touchdown later in the game, after fumbling on Skyline’s first play from scrimmage leading to an early 14-0 lead for Queen Creek. However, the most emotional moment of the night came in the second quarter, when Roebuck tagged junior Greyson Cook on a fade into the endzone. The 10-yard play didn’t seem like much– Cook displayed talented footwork and quick hands to make the grab, but it was the Coyotes’ first touchdown in three weeks. After consecutive shutouts to Desert Ridge then Highland, Skyline hadn’t put points on the board since a 55-14 loss to Boulder Creek on August 30th.
With the rivalry game comes emotion, and flags were tossed early and often against both teams.
Three dead-ball personal fouls were called against Queen Creek for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, the most impactful being a 90-yard touchdown pass by junior Trey Reynolds to senior Jace Bond being negated by a flag for a blind-side block.
Skyline saw their fair share of illegal blocking calls, losing over 30 yards of offense on the two. “Every football game you ever play should be emotional,” Hawthorne said, adding that the team will look to clean up on a few penalties before Westwood next week.
As Skyline drops to 0-5 on the season, Queen Creek improves to 4-1 before a second-half slate featuring Desert Vista and Highland. The Coyotes will seek their first win next week against Westwood.
Zach Keenan is a sports journalism student at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism covering Skyline High School athletics.