Ryan Grotjohn didn't make it through Brophy's soccer semifinal match. A collision and spill led to a high ankle sprain and his Thursday night ended early.
Playing on essentially one leg Saturday night, the senior midfielder left no doubt as to the best team in Division I.
Grotjohn punctuated what a group of unheralded reserves began when thrusted into the starting lineup, then Riggs Lennon added the punctuation in No. 1 Brophy's 2-0 win over No. 3 Desert Vista in the state championship match at Campo Verde H.S.
Brophy's second title in three seasons didn't come without tumult. Broncos coach Marc Kelly benched four starters - including the All-State forward Lennon - for the first half of the match for what he called "discipline" issues stemming from late in the team's semifinals match against Tolleson.
But Brophy's depth paid dividends by a dominant performance in time of possession and scoring chances, and a Clarence Clark-led backline which neutralized Thunder forwards Nicholas Mangialardi and Danny Gavin most of the way.
It was scoreless at halftime, and that was just fine with the Broncos.
"I told the guys these are the 11 on the field and we all know what we have to do," Clark said while clutching the championship trophy. "Whether with starters or backups, this is our 11."
Confident about the scoreless draw despite chances and controlling play most of the first half: "Absolutely," Clark said.
Sure enough, the four starters entered in the second half, but Grotjohn - who wasn't among the four disciplined but limped at times during warmups because of his ankle - was in the right place at the right time.
Six minutes into the second half, a crossing pass by Clark deep in Desert Vista territory led to a point-blank shot by Tyler Dial. His shot was stopped by Thunder goalkeeper Tim O'Brien but the riccochet went to Grotjohn standing nearby to clean up the chaos for a 1-0 lead.
A standout baseball player, Grotjohn iced his ankle after Thursday's match "for what felt like three or four hours," and though Clark said Grotjohn was hobbling around at school on Friday, he iced his ankle again before Saturday's match, though warmups were the litmus test.
"He really gutted it out today," Kelly said.
The Thunder's defense held on most of the night while the offense struggled to get anything going, but D.V. had a golden chance a few minutes later. On a rare run through Brophy's zone, a perfect centering pass by John Abernathy found Mangialardi (seven goals this postseason) in front of the Brophy net. His mid-air shot was hit flush, but hit the crossbar.
Desert Vista put the pressure on Brophy more often in the second half after a couple minor adjustments and urgency, but Broncos goalie Phil Mourikes - filling in for Michael O'Connor who suffered a concussion earlier in the state tournament - made three saves.
"Brophy seemed a step ahead, a little quicker reaction," Thunder coach Mike Rabasaca said. "I don’t know that we played anyone that quick and sharp so we had to adjust to something we hadn't seen before accept maybe in California (tournament). The second half we played far better but didn’t get the quality chances I thought we’d get.
"(The season) was a success obviously. Not everyone can win a state championship. Sixteen teams make the state tournament and 15 go home losers. I think Brophy is the best and we were probably second."
Lennon scored the clincher with little more than five minutes left off another rebound, this time after David Lane blasted a point-blank in which O'Brien made a diving save with his body, but the net was wide open for Lennon's putback.
Besides the usual suspects in Lennon, Clark and Lane, Cesar Alcantara and Ian Poblete were among a host of Broncos who stood out in a physical match. Likewise for the Thunder, Derek Gardiola, Connor Leisy and Chris Byrd also played well in the loss.
So, too, did Grotjohn, who, unlike Clark, Lennon and a couple others, weren't a big part of the 2010 championship team, but scored twice in the final two matches of his career in 2013.
"I knew I had to play, and it went through my mind that I might not be able to," he said, "but I couldn't miss out on my last game especially for a championship."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.