When coach Brian Cole took the job at Joy Christian he expected to win some games. But 7-0 and on the verge of the school’s first playoff appearance?
Yet, that’s where the former Phoenix North Canyon coach’s Eagles sit with one game remaining after a 62-8 win against Gila Bend Friday.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I took over in March,” Cole said. “But once I started working with the kids and saw how much they wanted it, how hard they worked in the weight room during the summer, I kind of expected once the season started we’d win some games because I saw how much they worked in the off season.”
The win kept the Eagles tied in Division VI, Section III with Scottsdale Prepatory Academy. However, Joy Christian holds the edge as long as it wins Oct.14 against Phoenix Veritas Prep.
A win next week all but assures them a first-round bye in the Division VI state tournament. It will be the school’s first trip to the state tournament in its history, Cole said.
While state tournament football is a new concept for Joy Christian, its first year coach is rather versed. He piloted top-seeded North Canyon to the 2005 5A-II state title with a 27-16 win against then third-ranked Centennial.
That Rattlers team averaged 38 points per game. In contrast, Friday’s win was Joy Christian’s third-straight 60-point game and fourth this season. Through seven games, the Eagles have averaged 60.5 points per game and have allowed just nine points per game.
“We have a lot of weapons on offense,” Cole said. “We have some really good kids who put in a lot of work. Our off season work is really paying off.”
It starts with Joy Christian’s quarterback Nick Henderson. The sophomore threw for five touchdowns against the Gila Monsters (3-3) and has tossed 27 touchdowns this season, without an interception.
”He’s a sophomore and has learned so much in such a short period of time,” Cole said. “He’s made himself a leader out there on offense. He’s a smart player. He reads defenses really well and so far he is having a heck of a year.”
Henderson hit tight end Josh Wahlers on all four passing scores (6, 18, 28 and 7 yards), three of which came in a 32-point first quarter. Running back Cody Wahlers (10-yard run) and tight end Ashton Dowe (17-yard pass) also scored in the quarter.
Senior Edward Beasley tacked on another touchdown to open the second quarter – a nifty reverse off a hand off from Cody Wahlers that went for 67 yards. The Eagles went into the half with a 54-0 lead.
With the clock constantly running after the break, wide receiver Devon Geunther ran in a 1-yard score.
The defense shined, too. The Gila Monsters were held to three first downs, and none in the first half. Their first came on a penalty against Joy Christian and Gila Bend didn’t gain another until its final drive – a 28-yard run by Kaeger Ruff. And if not for Ruff’s 22-yard touchdown run with 1:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Eagles would have posted it’s second shutout of the season. As it was, it was the squad’s fourth game in which it held its opponent to single digits.
The Eagles also recorded a pair of sacks by Oses Aigbokhan and Thomas Madrid, who lead the team with 5.5 and 4.5 sacks, respectively.
Aigbokhan, along with Cody Wahlers, Beasley and Josh Wahlers are the lone seniors on the squad and Cole said the underclassmen have done well to follow their lead.
“The four seniors we have are great. They are great leaders on the field and in the classroom,” Cole said. “They are just good players all the way around and I think their leadership has been huge. The younger players look up to them and respect what they say.”