Phoenix South Mountain coach George De La Torre praised his team’s composure down the stretch.
With Phoenix Pinnacle threatening to score the go-ahead touchdown in the game’s final seconds, Jaguar defensive back Treilon Parkmon dashed in for a quarterback sack and Clinton Wheaton intercepted an Evan Johnson pass at the 12 and returned it 85 yards before being tackled at the three, sealing a 12-7 come-from-behind victory in a Class 5A Division II quarterfinal at Pinnacle on Friday.
“When they started to drive that football (at the end) ... because of the skill of (quarterback Evan Johnson) ... he can really put a lot of pressure on you,” De La Torre said. “I’m so impressed with our defense. They’re stingy and they show that chemistry that we’ve been trying to develop for three years.”
The defense on both sides was stellar.
South Mountain (11-1) held Pinnacle (9-3) to 18 yards rushing for the game and tackled Johnson for a loss or no gain seven times.
Pinnacle stalled two South Mountain scoring drives with fumble recoveries.
The first came with defensive end Trevor Mernitz recovering at the Pioneer’s 9 on the Jaguars’ first drive of the game.
The recovery came after South Mountain appeared to have scored on a 4-yard pass play that was nullified by an ineligible receiver downfield call.
Linebacker Sam Dupaix helped the Pioneer’s dodge another bullet, stalling another Jaguar drive with a fumble recovery at the Pinnacle 11 with South Mountain threatening to score its first touchdown of the game with 9:55 to go in the third period.
The teams remained scoreless throughout most of the game until the third quarter when Pinnacle senior Max Zemezonak returned a punt to the South Mountain 45.
Six plays later, Johnson hit Jack Gibson with a 25-yard touchdown pass and Cole Atwell tacked on the extra point, giving the Pioneers a 7-0 lead with 3:47 left in the third quarter.
But South Mountain didn’t give up. Two possessions later, senior running back Ivan Worley (21 carries for 96 yards) wasted no time, running three times for 35 yards and a 20-yard touchdown, pulling South to within 7-6.