After a few bumps in the road, Campo Verde got its first “official” season off on the right foot. The Coyotes even left their mark. Or more precisely, the Coyote fans left their mark.
Sophomore quarterback Luke Pineda paced a balanced option attack by throwing for 139 yards and rushing for 123 more – scoring twice on the ground – in Campo Verde’s 31-6 victory at Apache Junction on Friday night in the teams’ Division III season opener.
The Coyotes played an independent schedule without seniors last year.
Campo Verde sputtered early but got two scoring drives in the second quarter then broke it open late, only allowing an Apache Junction touchdown in the final five minutes.
But the excitement early was in the stands after a small set of bleachers, with a group of Coyote fans, collapsed in the first half. Paramedics responded but only two minor injuries were reported. No cause was given for the collapse.
“We brought a lot of students and we broke the bleachers,” Campo Verde coach Max Ragsdale said jokingly. “We packed them in.”
Ragsdale returned to his old stomping ground – having coached the Prospectors until leaving in 2009 to start the Campo Verde program.
“It was (weird) being on the other sideline,” Ragsdale said.
But he was pleased with Pineda’s performance – 11-of-19 passing and 12 rushes, including a nice cut-back 17-yarder for a touchdown with 1:08 left before halftime.
“We did a good job moving the ball,” Ragsdale said. “I’m very happy with how we executed for the most part.”
Jake Elle added 113 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Coyotes.
Opening night jitters were definitely present. The teams combined for 18 penalties, nearly all of them false start mistakes.
And while Campo Verde found a groove, Apache Junction seemed a bit more challenged.
New coach Justin MacDonald said he was going to install a spread offense in the usually run-oriented Prospector attack.
He was true to his word.
And it didn’t look like the offense quite got the hang of it as Brett Darling completed just 4 of 19 passes for 21 yards in the first half. The first possession of the second half was promising, but the sophomore didn’t put points on the board until 4:33 was showing and his team trailed by more than four touchdowns.
Still, MacDonald stayed with his game plan and said it will take time.
“It’s not about not getting it; we have a sophomore quarterback who is going to be a sophomore sometimes,” said MacDonald. “He going to force balls that he shouldn’t force and that comes with experience. So it is a work in progress. He is a work in progress, the whole system is a work in progress.”
Darling finished the night 10-of-36 with an interception but did hook up with Branden Edwards on a 40-yard scoring pass to get his team on the scoreboard.
In the third quarter drive, Darling found Tyler McCullen twice on slant patterns that were working in the first half. The second one put the Prospectors on the Coyote 30 but on the play McCullen went down, holding his left shoulder. MacDonald said trainers believe he may have broken his collarbone but will have X-rays to confirm.
Apache Junction drove to the 5-yard-line but Darling was sacked and then threw two incomplete passes and the Prospectors did not threaten again until late.