The world moves too fast these days to allow us much time for reflection, reminiscing or wishful thinking. It’s not what we’ve done, only what we’ve done lately.
The Tribune is no exception, but our individual and collective futures yield scary unknowns, so this week we took comfort in rehashing high school kids’ gridiron glory days and Fridays gone by in 2009.
It won’t last long. We’ll be up into the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning crunching numbers, burying ourselves under a pile of schedules, results, TI-82 calculators and pencils (with erasers) to compute the final power point rankings and playoff pairings.
But before the bracketology comes the backtracking, and as the regular season concludes and playoffs commence beneath an abnormally warm November night, we thought a pause for reflection was in order.
Some of our “rewind” categories are ol’ standbys. Others were pulled fresh from of our collective brains to accommodate the rare, weird, fun, or cringe-worthy.
It’s our final edition of the best ’ball we’ve seen this fall, so just in case your DVR has been on pause since August, here’s a morsel of what you missed:
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE IN A GAME
Valley Christian quarterback/safety Jordan Morgan set a school record with 27 tackles in a 42-35 loss to Phoenix Northwest Christian. Offensively, Morgan accounted for 93 yards and three touchdowns in the air and added 128 yards rushing on the ground. Oh, and he punted three times with a 40-yard average.
Honorable mention: Coronado running back Shawn Martin rushed 27 times for 334 yards and four touchdowns in a 34-32 win over Seton. He also started at cornerback on defense.
Basha quarterback Mike Benjamin ran for a school-record 270 yards, passed for another 110 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Bears’ 36-22 victory over Highland. Benjamin’s final TD run in the game was exceptional, as he broke several tackles and zig-zagged all over the field to complete the long run and blunt a comeback attempt by Highland.
Chandler quarterback Brett Hundley passed for 224 yards and one TD and rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-28 win over Red Mountain. He has repeated a stat line similar to that in just about every game this season.
Cactus Shadows receiver Tommy Murphy caught 12 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-28 victory over Apache Junction.
Gilbert receiver Jesse Brantley caught 12 passes for 197 yards and three TDs, including a 33-yard game-winner with seven seconds left, to beat Dobson 35-32.
Saguaro quarterback Teddy Ruben carried 17 times for 313 yards and two touchdowns in a 61-17 rout of Moon Valley.
Highland rallied from 21 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Scottsdale Desert Mountain as time expired, 28-27. Highland’s Cameron Clemente scored three of Highland’s fourth-quarter touchdowns. He intercepted a pass to set up the first touchdown and scored on two runs and a pass reception for the game-winner. Three of Highland’s touchdowns came after Desert Mountain turnovers, and the final one came after a long reverse on a kickoff return.
Honorable mention: Mountain Pointe spotted Desert Ridge a 21-0 lead in the first half and came back for a 35-34 victory.
BEST TEAM DEFENSE
Whether it’s from the front to back or back to front, Hamilton does it better than anyone. They have the base with Tevin Hood and Shaq Jenkins up front; the middle with Ben Peters, Tyler Rutt and Mike Monroe; and the back end is as good as it gets with Devon Carrington, Davion Johnson and Cedric Parker. They can stop the run, are relentless at getting in the opponent’s backfield and cover the secondary better than anyone. The offense may not be as high-octane as Hamilton teams of the past, but it could be the Huskies’ best defense in the Steve Belles era.
Honorable mention: Mesquite, Marcos de Niza, Mesa, Chaparral, Pinnacle.
Marcos de Niza traded in its chocolate jerseys for pink in an Oct. 9 game against Gilbert Perry as the entire school showed great support for breast cancer.
As Padres quarterback Zach Schira put it: “It’s a cool thing to do. It’s a chance to put our football program in a positive light beyond just playing the game. ... Real men can wear pink for breast cancer. Not a problem.”
It wasn’t, as the pink Padres dispatched Perry 42-0.
Honorable mention: Corona del Sol broke out camouflage uniforms on Sept. 11 against Desert Ridge to help raise money for injured troops.
No one put much stock into the independent championship that Williams Field won last season, when it defeated Perry and Liberty, among others, for the crown. Even when the Black Hawks began the season 5-0, detractors said they hadn’t played any real competition yet. But a 32-30 win over Notre Dame was the turning point. Williams Field not only knocked off the two-time defending 4A-II champions, but also thrust itself into title contention with the victory. Williams Field still hasn’t lost, with a game tonight against Phoenix Arcadia that will determine the 4A-II East Sky Region title. Regardless of that outcome, the Black Hawks have burst onto the scene as a legitimate player in 4A-II in their first varsity season.
Honorable mention: Cactus Shadows, Mountain Pointe, Mesa.
BEST CLUTCH PLAY
As the seconds ticked off, Chandler Hamilton quarterback Travis Dean rolled right. With nothing opening up, he moved back to his left. Moments before running out of bounds, Dean lofted a pass 16 yards into the end zone, where Kyren Poe leapt and corralled the football. Two Chandler defenders ran toward him, but they couldn’t get there before he came down inbounds. The touchdown catch came with three seconds left and lifted Hamilton to a 24-20 win, capping a 10-point comeback in the final 1:49 of the game.
Honorable mention: Cactus Shadows’ Tommy Murphy blocked a potential game-tying PAT to beat Saguaro; Chandler’s Brett Hundley threw a game-winning TD pass to beat Desert Vista with two seconds left; Tempe Marcos de Niza had a Hail Mary pass to beat Glendale Deer Valley.
BEST COACHING JOB
After four years of great success at 3A Wickenburg High School, Norris Vaughan was hired to put pride back into the Mountain Pointe Pride.
It didn’t take long. Vaughan has turned Mountain Pointe (2-8 in 2008) into a potential East Valley Region champion and deep 5A-I playoff contender in his first season. Entering tonight’s finale against Tempe Marcos de Niza, Vaughan hasn’t lost a regular-season game since 2005.
BEST COACHING MOVE
Chandler’s Jim Ewan. The Wolves navigated an eight-win season in 2008 and began 2009 well enough with Kyle Yount at QB. But to become one of the 5A-I elite, they needed an upgrade of athleticism, and they had it with junior Bretty Hundley, who showed occasional flashes of his potential late last season. So with the Wolves being pummeled by powerhouse Peoria Centennial, Ewan inserted Hundley at quarterback — and the Wolves haven’t looked back. He has single-handedly made Chandler a state championship contender.
WORST COACHING MOVE
Chandler’s Jim Ewan. Leading 20-10 late in the game, the Wolves’ first win against Chandler Hamilton was in the bag. All they had to do was not stop the clock and not give Hamilton a short field. So what happened? Hundley ran out of bounds with under two minutes remaining, which saved Hamilton 40 seconds and preserved the Huskies’ final timeout. Then the Wolves allowed a pair of fourth-down conversions, threw an incomplete pass that stopped the clock again, and followed that by whiffing on an alleged “pooch” kick that turned into an onside kick recovered by Hamilton near midfield. A 20-10 lead with 1:49 wasn’t enough.
Kids have brain-freezes all the time, but enough mental miscues cost the Wolves a big game and that starts with coaching.
BEST “CARDIAC KIDS” IMPRESSION
Cactus Shadows made a habit out of coming up with the game-winning play on its way to a 9-0 record.
It started out in the season opener, when the Falcons went on the road and beat one of the preseason favorites in 4A-I, Vail Cienega, 33-32 on a 32-yard halfback pass from John Leonard to Brady Dombrowski with 1:31 left to play.
The following week, the Falcons scored with 15.7 seconds left in the game to force overtime against Phoenix Greenway. Then, in double overtime, Tommy Murphy intercepted a Greenway pass to preserve the 28-21 win.
Two weeks later the same scene repeated itself, as Murphy scored on a touchdown pass from Dillon Classen and Classen then ran in the two-point conversion try to pull Cactus Shadows even with Paradise Valley, 22-22. After one scoreless overtime, the Falcons scored on a 10-yard pass from Classen to Cameron Larson and then held the Trojans to pull out the 29-22 double-overtime win.
Finally, in a game that ultimately decided the 4A-I Desert Sky Region title, Murphy blocked the game-tying extra point try by Saguaro with 39.8 seconds to play to give Cactus Shadows a 21-20 victory.
Honorable mention: Hamilton’s unbeaten season was helped by a late game-winning field goal to beat Brophy and then a miracle 10-point comeback against Chandler in the final 1:49.
BEST SHORT-YARDAGE SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
When’s the last time you saw a 1-yard punt? Or a 13-yard punt return for a touchdown? It happened on the same play when Highland was forced to punt from its own end zone against Mesquite. The punt was short and high and bounced backward inside the Highland 20. With a couple Highland players surrounding the ball, but not downing it, Mesquite’s C.J. Randall barged in and picked up the ball at the 13 and ran it in for one of the shortest punt return TDs ever seen.
BEST GAME-WINNING KICK
The avalanche was sliding against Hamilton. A 21-0 lead vs. Brophy had disappeared and the Huskies needed points to break a tie. Zach Bauman busted a run, then quarterback Travis Dean did the same and put the Huskies in field goal range. They overcame themselves (5-yard penalty), which pushed a field goal attempt back to 38 yards. But Yannick Mets nailed it with three minutes left to give the Huskies a 24-21 lead which ultimately held up.
Honorable mention: Brandon Christie (Gilbert) vs. Gilbert Highland; Chris Aguirre (Perry) vs. Sierra Vista Buena.
BEST RUN BY A KICKER
Mesquite kicker Dane Wertz, in his first varsity football game subbing for injured soccer teammate Devin Foy, got away with a hand ball in American football as he scooped up his blocked field goal attempt and ran 15 yards for the winning touchdown in overtime to beat Mesa Desert Ridge, 27-21, in the season opener for both teams on Aug. 28.
BEST TRICK PLAY
Mountain View receiver Beau Stapley, acting as though he were mad at quarterback Brad Heap for throwing a terrible pass to him, picked up the one-hop throw behind the line of scrimmage and then heaved a 40-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Geroux in the Toros’ 36-0 victory over Highland.
Phoenix Mountain Pointe running backs De’Andre Currie and Davon Jones have rushed for 2,540 yards and 39 touchdowns this season. The pair have rushed for 100 yards or more in the same game six times this season.