Tempe has started strong. The finish is another issue. On Friday night, Tempe built a 20-point lead and held off Buckeye Union (1-2) for a 23-13 win in a 4A nonregion football game at Tempe’s Harper Memorial Stadium.
The Buffaloes showed a similar pattern in a 28-25 opening victory over Phoenix Moon Valley.
The Buffaloes are now 2-0, and in both games played well early, then hung on to win.
“We’ve have to learn to finish better,’’ coach John Rodriguez said. “This is two games in a row we’ve done this. Give Buckeye credit. They never give up.”
John Bautch scored two touchdowns, recovered two fumbles and led Tempe with 81 yards rushing.
The Buffaloes were consistent on the ground, rolling up 266 yards. Jo Rittenhouse finished with 74 yards and Josh McDowell had finished with 76 on just six carries. McDowell had runs of 37 and 30 yards.
Most of Tempe’s offensive highlights came early in the game. In the second half, the Buffaloes managed only a 27-yard field goal from Richard Cortez.
Tempe bottled up Buckeye’s running game, holding the Hawks to 103 yards on the ground.
Buckeye could get nowhere before switching quarterbacks in the second quarter. Aided by a pass-interference penalty, Troy Narhgang drove the Hawks 65 yards. He completed a 36-yard pass, then scored on a 6-yard run to cut the gap to 20-7.
Narhgang completed 14 of 19 passes, finishing with 181 yards passing. He hit Ternese Wilson with an 11-yard scoring pass to cut Tempe’s lead to 23-13 with 7:54 left on the game.
“We just didn’t play well enough in the first half to give ourselves a chance to win in the second half,’’ Buckeye coach Bob Barnes said.
The Buffaloes took a 20-0 lead with 7:20 left in the second quarter. Bautch set up a touchdown when he recovered a fumble at the Buckeye 19. Rittenhouse ran 18 yards up the middle, and Bautch scored on a 1-yard plunge on the next play.
Tempe made it 14-0 on a 2-yard run by Jordan Wilson late in the first quarter.
Tempe got on the board midway through the first quarter, when Bautch ran in from the 2. That capped a six-play, 80-yard drive, highlighted by McDowell’s 37-yard run.