Coolidge repeats as champ - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Coolidge repeats as champ

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Posted: Friday, November 24, 2006 10:33 pm | Updated: 2:12 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The Coolidge roster is dotted with offensive playmakers, but one name that wasn't on that list was tight end Andrew Ashford.

After Friday's 3A state championship game at Tempe McClintock High School, Ashford's name can be added.

Ashford made an electrifying 29-yard catch and run on a second-and-20 play from the 33-yard line. The play set up the Bears for the go-ahead touchdown as they won their second straight 3A championship with a 28-21 victory over previously unbeaten Wickenburg.

"It's great to win again," coach Carlo Hernandez said. "It's a lot easier chasing the gold ball than it is defending it. Our kids did a great job and battled. I couldn't have asked for a better group."

While Ashford made the play everyone was talking about after the game, the usual suspects were doing their thing for the Bears.

Fullback Brad Jackson ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, while T.J. White had 90 yards and a pair of scores. Quarterback Jesse Wheeler chipped in with 79 yards rushing and 61 passing.

Coolidge held Wickenburg's powerful running game in check in the second half, allowing just six first downs, three coming on a last-ditch drive with Coolidge ahead 28-14. Wickenburg finished with just 119 yards rushing, 69 coming from Scott McKeever.

The game-changing play came with the game tied at 14 early in the fourth and the Bears facing a second-and-20 at the Wickenburg 33.

Wheeler took the snap and sprinted back and to his left, Wickenburg's Jeff Adler closed in, but Wheeler ducked his tackle, stood and fired the ball to Ashford, who hauled it in at the 23.

Ashford turned up field and literally dragged a Wickenburg defender, who was clinging to Ashford's jersey, eight yards before Sharrod Peace threw a block that knocked the defender loose. Ashford scrambled down to the 4, setting up White's second touchdown of the night that made the score 21-14.

"He caught it and then he just kept dragging and dragging," said T.J. White. "That was a great play."

"It just showed how much this meant to us," said Jackson. "It means a lot to bring the trophy back to our hometown."

Coolidge (12-1) added a 2-yard run by Jackson with 2:38 left to all but ice the game. Wickenburg (13-1) scored on a 10-yard pass from Drew Vaughan to Adler with a minute left, but Jackson recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the Bears' second straight title.

Hernandez nearly considered taking another coaching position during last offseason, but could not let himself walk away from the likes of Wheeler and T.J. and Damar White and Shavar McKaney, all seniors.

"Their senior leadership, their competitiveness, their will to win, those are things that you can't coach," Hernandez said. "These are a great group of seniors, I couldn't turn my back and walk away and they didn't disappoint me one bit."

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