It was supposed to be Eagar Round Valley’s passing game against Coolidge’s rushing attack. That’s the way it turned out.
The Elks’ Hayden Eagar threw for 547 yards — unofficially a state record if the number stands — but the third-seeded Bears — Brad Jackson in particular — ran when they needed to and got a late interception as Coolidge advanced to its fourth consecutive 3A state title game.
“We deserve it, everybody put us down,” Jackson said. “We had to come back and show everybody we could do it.”
Jackson ran for 285 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback Charlie Garrett added 109 rushing yards, including a 49-yard fourth-quarter score that broke Round Valley’s back and the Bears went on to a 37-21 win Friday night in the 3A semifinals at Mesa Community College.
Coolidge will face No. 1 Lakeside Blue Ridge or No. 5 Show Low in the state championship at 5 p.m. next Saturday at Arizona Stadium in Tucson.
Did a team that started the season 0-2 and was down 14-0 Friday night to an explosive offense really think it was going to be playing for a state title three-peat?
“Our kids have that mentality,” Bears coach Carlo Hernandez said. “That’s something that we instill in them, the tradition. There is a rich tradition in Coolidge that goes back a lot deeper than myself. So I think these kids always feel like they can win.”
The Bears scored on four straight possessions in the second quarter to take a 23-14 lead at halftime as the teams combined for more than 500 yards in offense.
“I was thinking we had to man-up and get back into the game,” Jackson said of the 14-0 hole Coolidge was in before the fans were even settled in their seats. “They had me scared for a little bit, but I knew we could pull it out.”
After seventh-seeded Round Valley drove 71 yards in 50 seconds to cut the lead to 23-21 late in the third quarter, it looked like the momentum had switched again.
But Evan Hamblin fumbled after catching an Eagar pass early in the fourth quarter and Coolidge’s Ryan Yucupisio recovered at the Bears 22. Six plays later, Garrett took an option play 49 yards for the clinching score.