All Tempe McClintock coach Mike Gibbons wanted was for his team to hang around. Keep the game close into the fourth quarter, then wait and see if the pressure would get to No. 2 Glendale Cactus. But his 15th-seeded Chargers were having none of it.
Instead, they jumped out to a 23-14 lead and held on for a 30-28 upset. A big part of that success was due to wide receiver Malcolm Martin. He had seven catches for 171 yards, including a 68-yard fourth-quarter touchdown.
Martin missed a game against Cave Creek Cactus Shadows earlier this year, and the offense went stagnant as the Chargers lost 13-10.
After the loss, a whole bunch of people put McClintock in the “Not a threat” category.
The Chargers didn’t fall victim to that thinking, and rebounded to beat Apache Junction in the season finale to make the playoffs. Once the Chargers were in, Gibbons said the program had too much pride and tradition to be happy just making it that far.
“We’re better than a 15th seed and we knew it,” quarterback Kelly Kurzman said after the game.
McClintock’s win is the biggest upset in the 4A or 5A state tournament since 16th-seeded Glendale Mountain Ridge defeated top seed Paradise Valley in the 2004 state tournament. Mountain Ridge didn’t stop there. It knocked out No. 9 Mesa Mountain View, then No. 5 Phoenix Brophy. The Lions made it all the way to the title game before losing to Chandler Hamilton.
The Chargers face off with No. 7 seed Peoria tonight, a team that lost to Cactus in the regular season.
By morning, we could be greeting a full-blown Cinderella.
TOROS TAKE TO AIR
Mesa Mountain View has produced quarterbacks the likes of Joe Germaine, John Beck and Max Hall. But in recent times, the Toros signal-callers have stuck to the ground. Alex Harris this year and Riley Nielsen before him tried to keep defenses honest with their arms, but did most of the damage with their legs.
In Mountain View’s first seven games, it threw the ball 51 times, an average of just more than seven attempts per game.
But once Harris went down, the air attack returned. Blake Decker came on and the Toros’ offense flipped 180 degrees.
In his first game as quarterback, Decker threw 18 passes, seven more than the previous high. In his four starts, the Toros have averaged 21.5 passing attempts per game, three times as many as with Harris at quarterback.
Decker had a season-high 31 attempts in a win over Mesa Dobson in the regular-season finale.
More throwing doesn’t necessarily equate to more offensive output, however. All four times Mountain View has scored 30 points or more this season were with Harris under center.
The Toros scored only 15 points in a first-round win against Gilbert, but still tried 18 plays through the air.
Gilbert Mesquite put a scare into No. 1 seed Hamilton in its first-round matchup last Friday, keeping the contest close throughout before eventually falling, 26-14. This came on the heels of a 44-8 thrashing at the hands of the Huskies in the regular season.
Does this mean a Hamilton weakness was finally pinpointed, or was it simply a wake-up call for a team that knows it has the talent to beat everyone in the state? I have a feeling Eddy Zubey and his Mesa Westwood squad won’t be too happy when they find out tonight.
Coolidge has had to scratch and claw its way to get there, but sits two wins away from a third consecutive 3A state title. The Bears won last week in a most peculiar way. A bad snap forced Payson punter Nicholas Herring to run out of the end zone for a safety, and that score ended up being the difference. Whatever works.
NO QB, NO PROBLEM
It was hard not to do a double-take after seeing Chandler Basha post 40 points in a seven-point win over Mesa Dobson on Friday. The Bears weren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut this season, and the loss of quarterback Troy Graham seemed to spell doom. But Quinn Evans took it upon himself to make up for the loss of Graham, scoring five touchdowns vs. the Mustangs. The biggest came with 2:05 left in a tie game, when he picked up his own team’s fumble and raced 54 yards into the end zone for the deciding score.
The biggest first-round upsets came from the same side of the bracket in 4A-I. No. 15 seed Tempe McClintock and No. 14 seed Prescott knocked off No. 2 Glendale Cactus and No. 3 Tucson Sabino, respectively, leaving No. 6 Tucson Canyon del Oro as the highest seed left in that half of the bracket. The upper half didn’t suffer the same fate. No. 1 Scottsdale Saguaro, No. 4 Goodyear Millennium, No. 5 Scottsdale Chaparral and No. 8 Paradise Valley won to keep some semblance of order.
“All I can say is we keep going. We haven’t changed. We’re wearing the same clothes, running the same plays. Everything is the same.”
gary venturo, corona coach on his team’s NINE straight wins
All-Trib watch: Westwood tailback Ben Ochoa ran for 302 yards and three touchdowns on just 20 carries in a 34-14 first-round victory over Glendale Mountain Ridge.