Sandra Day O’Connor coach John Rodriguez knows how his quarterback, Cougar Beaubien, feels.
Last year, Beaubien was battling Mountain Ridge quarterback Hunter Young for a starting spot on the Mountain Lion roster. This year, after transferring to the Phoenix school, the senior signal caller was handed the reigns to the Eagles offense after the second game of the season and hasn’t let go.
“I went through something similar,” Rodriguez said. “I started with Scottsdale Community College then transferred to GCC and faced them that year. We told (Beaubien) the most important thing to remember was that it was just another region game. He did a phenomenal job controlling his emotions considering what was at stake.”
The stakes? Control of the 5A-I/II Northwest Region, which the Eagles took with a 38-13 win at Mountain Ridge (5-2, 3-1) Friday.
“It feels pretty good to be in first after getting by Boulder Creek and (Mountain) Ridge,” Rodriguez said.
Beaubien threw three touchdowns, ran in a pair and passed for 190 yards against his former school, but it was the defense, and Mountain Lion miscues, that gave O’Connor (7-0, 4-0) control of the game.
The Eagles sacked Young three times and had had three interceptions, including one at the goal line near the start of the fourth quarter by senior Goerge Krastev and two by senior Matt McElroy. Krastev’s pick capped a 10-play 67-yard drive that could have cut O’Connor’s lead to 14 with 10 minutes to play had Mountain Ridge scored.
Instead, the Eagles went 80 yards in eight plays with Beaubien hitting McElroy for a 30-yard touchdown and a 31-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Mistakes hurt the Mountain Lions all night. Coming out of half time, O’Connor kicker Daniel Turski squibbed a kick down the middle that was touched by a Mountain Ridge defender and recovered by Eagles sophomore Zach Davis. The Mountain Lion defense forced a three-and-out, but two plays later McElroy nabbed his second interception of the night. Again, the Mountain Lion defense stopped the Eagles for three downs before Beaubien found Trevor Ermisch wide open after his defender fell down. Beaubien scored from two yards out to make it 24-7.
“We have to have a short memory on this one,” said Mountain Ridge coach Bobby Green. “We’ll take away the fact that we need to make corrections. There were too many mental mistakes tonight, but we’ll build off this game and come back better from it. But also, our hats are off to coach John Rodriguez, they executed and excellent game plan against us tonight.”
The Mountain Lions also had a punt blocked at their 22-yard line that led to a 25-yard Eagles field goal.
O’Connor struck first when Beaubien hit McElroy down the left sideline for a 33-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. The Eagles also tacked on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Beaubien to Ermisch for a 17-0 halftime lead.
Beaubien ran in another from four yards out for his fifth touchdown of the night.
Young, who finished 24-for-43 passing with 267 yards, found senior Jon Matter at the goal line for a 22-yard touchdown with less than 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Mountain Lions added another score late in the fourth when Young tossed a 1-yard pass to senior Jon Matter.
There was a scary moment with a 1:31 to play in the third quarter. During a 4-yard gain by O’Connor’s Zenas Morton, Brent Harbaugh went down after a block. He laid on the field for nearly 10 minutes before Glendale Fire Department paramedics arrived. They stabilized his neck and carted him off the field on a stretcher. Play was halted for almost 20 minutes.
“(Harbaugh) should be OK,” Rodriguez said. “He had tingling in his hands and feet, which was a good sign. We were being very cautious with him because it was his neck.”
It also was military appreciation night at Mountain Ridge as the school honored veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Veterans, accompanied by family and friends, walked down the track and were given a standing ovation by the crowd.