Cactus Shadows picked the wrong time to have a sloppy game.
The Falcons’ usually precise passing game was slowed by dropped passes Friday that led to a 52-21 loss at Glendale Apollo in the first round of the 4A-I state playoffs.
“We had been playing really good football the last three weeks, so I really thought we were coming into the playoffs right where we wanted to be,” Cactus Shadows coach Chad DeGrenier said. “It just didn’t happen.”
Cactus Shadows (7-4) looked out of character from the get-go. Apollo (9-2) scored on its first offensive play as Jonathan Brown found Chrisdeon Ayiyi on a wideout screen that turned into a 59-yard TD pass.
“We felt very confident in our game plan,” Apollo coach Zack Threadgill. “Our kids came out ready to play. There was no delay, no hitch, they were ready from the jump.”
The Falcons couldn’t sustain any drives in the first half and didn’t advance the ball past midfield. Star wideout John Leonard and quarterback Bryce Kinsler struggled to get the offense clicking.
“They were the better team tonight,” DeGreiner said. “They made two big plays and then we were just trying to scramble.”
While the Falcons were trying to figure out their offense, the Hawks were scoring. Brown scored from 3 yards out and Richie Martinez added a 7-yard TD run to give Apollo a 21-0 halftime lead.
DeGreiner rolled the dice to start the second half with an onside kick that was recovered by the Falcons. But the gamble didn’t pay off as the Cactus Shadows drive stalled at the Apollo 48.
The ensuing Apollo drive finished off Cactus Shadows. The Hawks went ahead 28-0 when Brown tossed a 13-yard TD pass with 4:40 left in the third.
“We had over 10 dropped passes tonight,” DeGreiner said. “We haven’t had 10 dropped passes all year.”
Brown kept rolling for Apollo as he connected on a 41-yard TD pass after Cactus Shadows attempted a fake punt that didn’t yield a first down.
Brown finished with 225 yards on 17-of-23 passing and added 99 yards rushing on eight carries.
Cactus Shadows finally broke into the scoring column when Kinsler found Leonard for a 27-yard TD pass just before the end of the third quarter. Leonard added a 21-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter.
Leonard ended with 11 catches for 121 yards.
Kinsler completed 24-of-46 passes for 275 yards but was intercepted twice.