Football changed a few years back to an offensive-centric, air-it-out game. But many coaches this time of year still subscribe to the old adage that defense wins championships.
Red Mountain put on a defensive display Friday night to cement its playoff spot and take a fair amount of momentum into the postseason.
The Mountain Lions bottled up Skyline's running attack, came away with four turnovers and even scored not once but twice in a 29-13 victory at Skyline.
Diego Hernandez set the tone with a sack for a safety on the first play from scrimmage, and Conrad Burnap had one of Red Mountain's three interceptions and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown just before halftime, which allowed the Mountain Lions to coast to the win and into next week's Division I postseason.
"Our D-line has been a force of late," said the linebacker Burnap, who seemingly was in on almost every tackle in the first half. "We had good coaching and game-planning for this one. ... I just did my job."
Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski gave Burnap much more credit than the senior wanted to accept.
"Conrad Burnap played a great game. A bunch of guys played well but hats off to Conrad for leading the way," Wisniewski said. "Conrad is a darn good player and we're just glad he's wearing our colors. Our front seven, led by Conrad, is pretty good, maybe the best part of our team."
Red Mountain (5-5) held Skyline, which was averaging 257 rushing yards, to 94 yards on the ground and only one carry of more than nine yards.
The Mountain Lions entered the game No. 10 in the power rankings that determine seeding for the 16-team postseason, and likely will remain in that spot as all but one team ahead of them won on Friday.
"We're not the most athletic team or the fastest team. But this team has heart," Wisniewski said. "We had all kinds of athleticism last year but we didn't have the chemistry this team has."
Terrell Tyler is one of the athletic Mountain Lions, and he scored two touchdowns on connections with hobbled quarterback Caleb Murray-Thomas of 46 and 55 yards.
Murray-Thomas also hit Burnap for a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter to help Red Mountain finish the regular season with a .500 record by winning four of its last five and going 4-0 against the other Division I teams in its district.
"We're still going in as an underdog, which I like," Burnap said. "We're going to have to earn everything; that's what I like. I don't like to be puffy headed."
The loss cast some doubt about the Coyotes' playoff chances despite their 6-4 record. Skyline entered the week No. 13 in the power rankings.
But the Coyotes likely still have at least one week left as just two of the five teams behind them won on Friday. Skyline could drop a spot in the rankings when the seeds are announced Saturday morning, which would mean a first-round game against defending state champion Hamilton.
"If we get in, we get in; if we don't, we don't," said Skyline coach Angelo Pauffuni, whose team tallied just 274 total yards, 77 of which came on one play in the first half. "But I don't care about that right now. I just care about getting our (butt) kicked today. That's the only thing on my mind right now.
"Maybe in a couple hours I'll think about the playoffs. Right now, I'm just frustrated that our offense didn't do much and our defense gave them three scores — they took them but we gave them to them. We have some things to fix if we do get to play another game."
RED MOUNTAIN 29, SKYLINE 13
Red Mt. 9 13 7 0 — 29
Skyline 0 7 0 6 — 13
RM — Amado -6 run, Safety, 11:48
RM — Tyler 46 pass from Murray-Thomas (Tani kick), 1:34
S — Anderson 77 pass from Amado (Becerra kick), 8:26
RM — Tyler 55 pass from Murray-Thomas (Tani kick), 5:16
RM — Burnap 55 INT (kick failed), 0:11
RM — Burnap 2 pass from Murray-Thomas (Tani kick), 2:38
S — Martinez-Sotelo 32 pass from Amado (run failed), 4:25
First downs 18, 13
Rushing 36-152, 34-94
Passing 11-16-1-164, 8-17-3-180
Fumbles-Lost 2-0, 1-1
Penalties-Yards 8-88, 2-20
RUSHING — Red Mountain: Lear 13-64, Bialek 7-39, Dobbins 2-33, Aurich 8-31, Burnap 1-0, Limbs 1-0, Buckles 1-(-1), Murray-Thomas 3-(-14). Skyline: Avitia 17-63, Tucker 6-18, Amado 8-10, Rupert 2-2, Uasike 1-1.
PASSING — Red Mountain: Murray-Thomas 8-10-0-146, Aurich 3-5-1-11, Buckles 0-1-0-0. Skyline: Amado 8-17-3-180.
RECEIVING — Red Mountain: Tyler 3-110, Dobbins 2-12, Shervheim 2-11, Molina 1-11, Lear 1-10, Hernandez 1-5, Smith 1-3, Burnap 1-2. Skyline: Anderson 2-109, Martinez-Sotelo 3-56, Tucker 2-9, Woods 1-6.
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