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The new man in charge of quarterbacks at Willow Canyon High School doesn’t have to look far to find the head coach.
Willow Canyon’s senior wide receiver Diandre Harding looks for a pass during practice Aug. 1 in Surprise.
The Willow Canyon High School football team will get an early opportunity this season to be a prime-time player.
Willow Canyon senior tailback protects the ball while going through drills at practice.
The Willow Canyon High School football team will leave style points to figure skaters and beauty contestants. While it didn't look pretty, the Wildcats walked off the field with a 10-3 win over Camelback Thursday night in Surprise. "We did just enough is how I would describe our win tonight," said Mike Hudnutt, Willow Canyon coach. "Any time you can walk off the field with a win, it's great." Willow Canyon improved to 3-1 with the non-region victory. Camelback dropped to 1-3 and could muster just a field goal one week after posting a 61-21 home win against Valley Vista. The Wildcats relied on a defensive safety in the second quarter and a 48-yard touchdown pass from Trey Clarida to Chris Robinson in the third quarter to account for their points. The Wildcats followed the touchdown with a two-point conversion when backup quarterback Justin Corrigan faked the hold and ran into the end zone. "Football is a game of execution and we just didn't make the plays we had to in the second half," said Daryl Phillips, Camelback coach. "We moved the ball well at times, but if you don't score points, then it wasn't enough." Willow Canyon moved the ball consistently throughout the game, but had difficulty inside the red zone. The Wildcats failed to score twice on drives which moved inside the Camelback 5-yard line. One drive ended when Clarida was stopped on a fourth-down keeper at the 2 and another failed when Clarida overthrew Robinson on a fourth-down fade pattern from the Camelback 4. "I will take responsibility for those drives," Hudnutt said. "I've got to go back and look at the play-calling there because I'm not calling the right plays." One play which worked to perfection was Hudnutt's call on third-and-two from the Camelback 48 in the third quarter. That resulted in Robinson's third touchdown in four games as the senior ran past the corner and caught a perfectly thrown strike from Clarida for the touchdown. "That was a play we put in just this week," Hudnutt said. "We knew play-action would work there because of the way Camelback played the run." The touchdown and two-point conversion gave Willow Canyon a 10-0 lead. That put the game in the hands of the Willow Canyon defense, which bent, but didn't break the rest of the way. Justin Jones made a pair of key second-half sacks for Willow Canyon and Justin Weber intercepted a fourth-down pass to halt Camelback's final drive of the game. Jones' first sack occurred on a third-and-eight play from the Willow Canyon 13 and forced Camelback to settle for a 34-yard field goal which cut the lead to 10-3. Jones' second sack forced Camelback to punt early in the fourth quarter. Weber's interception occurred with 1 minute, 18 seconds left in the game after Camelback had reached the Willow Canyon 38-yard line. Willow Canyon celebrates homecoming and plays host to Carl Hayden at 7 p.m. next Friday.
Outlook: Calling this game crucial to Pinnacle is an understatement.
Outlook: After beating Raymond Kellis 55-6 last week, you would think Cactus Shadows coach Chad DeGrenier would be satisfied. Far from it.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday.
The Deer Valley High School football team climbed into the driver's seat in the Northwest Region title race Friday night. Deer Valley permitted a touchdown on Willow Canyon's opening drive, then erupted for 37 unanswered points en route to a 37-7 road win in Surprise. "I don't think a lot of teams out there give us much respect," said Deer Valley receiver Jimmy Goad, who caught a pair of touchdown passes. "The way we played tonight is the way we go about getting that respect." Deer Valley improved to 4-3 overall and 2-0 in region play. The victory also guaranteed the Skyhawks at least a share of first place going into next Friday's region showdown at Goldwater. Willow Canyon dropped to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the region. "We knew this was a huge week going against Willow Canyon and it's going to be another huge week against Goldwater," said Sven Christianson, Deer Valley coach. "All we can do is take them one at a time." The Wildcats seemed to have everything going in their favor to start the game. Willow Canyon scored on its opening drive when Trey Clarida connected on a 45-yard touchdown pass to tight end K.C. Simmons. Daniel Torres followed with an interception of an overthrown pass by quarterback Pearce Swerdfeger on Deer Valley's first possession. That's when it all began to unravel for the Wildcats, who permitted 21 points in the next five minutes. A snap over the head of the Willow Canyon punter set up one Deer Valley touchdown and a botched quarterback exchange set up another score to give Deer Valley a 12-7 lead. Deer Valley tallied a safety when Willow Canyon fumbled the ensuing kickoff and scored on its next possession when Jamaul Armstrong raced 43 yards for a touchdown. "Usually we do a good job of holding onto the ball, but this was by far our worst game as far as making mistakes," said Mike Hudnutt, Willow Canyon coach. "We gave them 21 points off field position and making mistakes." Swerdfeger overcame his early interception with a three-touchdown performance. The junior completed 9 of 13 passes for 149 yards with scoring strikes of 11 and 7 yards to Goad. Swerdfeger's other tally went to Alfred Bowden, who turned a short pass into a 76-yard touchdown when the Willow Canyon defender slipped and Bowden ran untouched into the end zone. "The old adage is you have to run to set up the pass," Christianson said. "We pass to set up the run." Armstrong took advantage of numerous running lanes in the second half to gain 124 yards on 16 carries. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Armstrong ripped off runs of 34 and 26 yards in the second half as Deer Valley put the game away.
The Willow Canyon High School football team dug a hole it couldn't climb out of Friday night. Ironwood Ridge built a 19-point lead in the third quarter and held on for a 19-14 victory in the Willow Canyon home opener in Surprise. Ironwood Ridge improved its record to 1-2. Willow Canyon dropped to 2-1. "They were more physical than our players in the first half," said Mike Hudnutt, Willow Canyon coach. "We really didn't make that many adjustments at halftime, but just told our kids they were going to have to come out and play more physical." Willow Canyon scored on its first two possessions of the second half. Quarterback Trey Clarida hit wide receiver Chris Robinson with a 57-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes, 54 seconds left in the third quarter. Clarida then scrambled for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 19-8. Willow Canyon failed to convert the subsequent onside kick, but got the ball back on a fumble recovery by Micah Henige. The Wildcats proceeded to go 67 yards on 11 plays, capped by a highlight-reel 16-yard touchdown run by BJ Scott. The junior missed last week's game against Tolleson because of a sprained ankle, but returned to action in the second quarter against Ironwood Ridge. Scott started to his right on the touchdown run, reversed his field and left the Ironwood Ridge defense in his wake for the score with 8:05 left in the game. "The kids didn't quit on the play and they deserve a lot of praise for that," Hudnutt said. "In fact, they could have easily quit at halftime, but they came back and played hard." The two-point conversion failed and would account for the 19-14 final margin. Willow Canyon had two chances to pull out the win, but failed to convert both times. The first possession occurred after Willow Canyon recovered an onside kick following Scott's score. Scott got behind the Ironwood Ridge defense on a third-down play, but then juggled and dropped a would-be touchdown pass at the 20-yard line. The Wildcats then turned the ball over on downs after Ironwood Ridge sacked Clarida on a fourth-down play. "If BJ makes that catch, we probably go up 21-19," Hudnutt said. "But in BJ's defense, it's hard to be sharp when you haven't been able to practice for two weeks." Willow Canyon got the ball back with 3:03 left, but could get no farther than its own 40-yard line before Ironwood Ridge got the ball back on downs and ran out the clock. Penalties played a key role as Ironwood Ridge built a 16-0 halftime lead. The Nighthawks benefited from a roughing-the-kicker penalty on their first touchdown and took advantage of three personal fouls en route to another score. One of the penalties was called against Hudnutt, who had an animated discussion with the referee in the second quarter and another on the way to the locker room at halftime. "Officials don't win or lose the game," Hudnutt said. "We probably had some calls go our way in the second half." The Wildcats also had a touchdown called back in the first quarter when the Willow Canyon offensive line pushed Clarida into the end zone on a 1-yard keeper. "That was the right call," Hudnutt said. "Our guys pushed him into the end zone." Willow Canyon relied on its passing game than it had in its previous two contests. Clarida completed 8 of 15 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown. Justin Weber led the Willow Canyon receivers with four catches for 73 yards. "We knew we were going to have to throw the ball more tonight," Hudnutt said. "That was part of the game plan." Willow Canyon plays host to Camelback at 7 p.m. this Thursday.
The Willow Canyon High School volleyball team knows how to win a cat fight. The Wildcats raced out of the gates to start the season with a 25-13, 25-12, 25-5 home win against the Central Bobcats Tuesday night. "They did really well," Willow Canyon coach Morgan Ratlief said of her team. " They started strong and stayed strong most of the night. "There were some points in the match where they started to let down, but we're going to work on that right away in practice." Willow Canyon relied on fast starts each game and trailed just once the entire match. That occurred when the Bobcats held a short-lived 3-1 lead in the second game. Strong service games keyed the solid starts in each game. Rebecca Valdez won seven straight points on her serve in the first game and eight straight points on serve in the final game. "We have been working on making tough serves," the coach said. "It's nice when the hard work pays off." The hard work produced a victorious debut in Class 5A Division 2 competition for Willow Canyon. The Wildcats finished 13-13 last year while competing in Class 4A. "It was important for us to get off to a good start while making the jump to 5A," Ratlief said. "It helps keep the girls determined and focused. "They're already starting to talk about our next match (Thursday at Dobson). Ratlief complimented the work of Veronica D'Amato and Tanner David. "I thought Veronica did great with passing and her defensive digs," Ratlief said. "Tanner did a great job at the net."
The visiting Surprise Willow Canyon Wildcats brought everything they could to trip up the top-seeded Scottsdale Saguaro boys basketball team — the No. 1 offense in 4A, busloads of students to cheer them on, and even their band.
DRIVING: Nick Witherill of Saguaro drives past Ben Litchy (12) and John Carter of Willow Canyon Friday at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale.
Outlook: With Surprise Willow Canyon playing only its second year of varsity ball, you would think this sets up as an easy night for McClintock.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday.
The math is simple.
Willow Canyon junior tailback Antony Thompson motors downfield against the Ironwood defense Friday.
No sport experiences more change year to year than high school football, and if early results are any indication, Friday’s Valley Vista-Willow Canyon grudge match will provide a clear example of this theory.
Valley Vista senior linebacker Jack Hastings listens to the coaches speak during an August practice.
Deer Valley and Willow Canyon ended the 2010 football season with what amounted to an elimination game for a 5A-II playoff spot, and the Skyhawks won 24-21 by scoring in the last two minutes.
Willow Canyon junior linebacker Brian Keyes fights off a block, background, and prepares to meet a ballcarrier in practice earlier this month