It took more than 40 minutes but Skyline got its offense in gear – despite missing its injured big guns – and just may have played itself into the postseason.
“Our main goal is playoffs,” said Coyote quarterback Michael Amado. “It was keeping us alive right now in this game. That’s the only thing that’s keeping us alive is wanting to be in the playoffs so bad.”
The Coyotes (6-3) capped a 94-yard drive with a 1-yard run by Logan Ruppert with 2:02 left to beat Mesa 17-10 on Friday. Skyline came into the night No. 16 in power points with Red Mountain left on the schedule next week. Mesa (3-6) was 18th and desperately needed a win to stay in the hunt.
But the Jackrabbits failed to the move the ball after an impressive 80-yard game-opening drive and didn’t get a first down on their final possession, turning the ball over on downs with 1:37 remaining, allowing Skyline to run out the clock.
“It means a lot to us because it gets us to 6-3, gives us a shot at the playoffs, we might or might not be in, who knows, right now it doesn’t matter,” said Skyline coach Angelo Paffumi. “What matters is that we won another close game.”
Coupled with Desert Vista’s loss to Corona del Sol on Thursday, Skyline should move up in the rankings going into the regular season finale.
After a heartbreaking 50-49 loss to Desert Mountain a week ago, the Coyotes had trouble getting any offense going on Friday at Mesa. Leading rusher Francisco Avitia (779 yards in six games) re-injured himself and was not a factor, leaving Ruppert and wideout Truman Tucker to fill in behind quarterback Michael Amado.
“Our kids have stepped up,” Paffumi said. “We lost 'Cisco on the first series. He tried to play but he couldn’t run. Our second running back couldn’t run. His ankle was out. They did just enough on offense to get it done.”
Skyline was held to one first down in the first half and other than a 56-yard pass play had only a handful of yards in offense and Mesa had a 10-0 lead at the break.
The Coyotes finally took advantage of a Mesa miscue, a fumble on its own 32.
Skyline needed just five plays to score with 4:29 left in the third quarter and cut the Mesa lead to 10-9.
The teams traded possessions until Mesa had the ball but stalled at midfield in the fourth quarter. Ben Dillon then got off a 48-yard punt that the Jackrabbits downed at the Coyote 6 with 7:47 remaining.
But Amado engineered a drive, getting a couple of big plays along the way. Ruppert converted a fourth-and-1 at the Skyline 15 and then Nate Woods caught two big passes along the right sideline on successive plays to give Skyline a little breathing room. The Coyotes – who were whistled for 141 yards in penalties themselves – got help from Jackrabbit penalties. A personal foul call and a pass interference penalty helped Skyline get into the red zone.
“We had some receivers step in and make some wonderful catches,” Amado said. “That’s what set the tone right there, that’s what we needed.”
Amado had a shovel pass to Salvador Martinez-Sotelo go for 10 yards on third-and-8 at the Mesa 15 and Skyline was in position. It took a couple of tries before Ruppert scored. Amado hit Martinez-Sotelo on the 2-point conversation for good measure.
Skyline did hold Mesa running back Turrell Pietz-Noble to 56 yards on the ground – well under his average – although he likely passed the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Skyline 17, Mesa 10
First Downs: Sky 12, Mesa 10
Rushing: Sky 36-145, Mesa 35-155
Passing (comp.-att.-TD-INT): Sky 7-16-0-1-106, Mesa 5-13-0-1-46
Fumbles-lost: Sky 1-0, Mesa 2-1
Penalties-yards: Sky 14-141, Mesa 6-61
Skyline 0 0 9 8 -- 17
Mesa 7 3 0 0 - 10
M: Pietz-Noble 2 run (Pereles kick)
M: Pereles FG 40
S: Becerra FG 33
S: Ruppert 2 run (pass failed)
S: Ruppert 1 run (Martinez-Sotelo pass from Amado)