In what was a back-and-forth contest, Higley kicker Erik Fritz was able to connect on a 22-yard field goal with just 15 seconds left for the deciding three points in a 27-24 win against Cactus Shadows.
Higley running back Ricky Marshall – who originally wasn’t expected to play because of a potential transfer domicile violation – had another big day on the ground, rushing for 144 yards and two second-half touchdowns. Marshall had sat out last year after a transfer from Desert Ridge and his appearances in Higley’s first two games this season could force the team to forfeit those victories. Higley is expected to appeal the ruling.
Coach Eddy Zubey focused on Marshall’s on-the-field performance after the game.
“Ricky’s a great kid,” said Zubey, whose night ended with a Gatorade bath from his players. “He did another good job. He’s a hard runner.”
While inconsistent for much of the game, Higley quarterback Tyler Bloom managed to throw for 273 yards and run for 98 more.
Despite the tight score, the Knights (4-0) never trailed visiting Cactus Shadows.
For Cactus Shadows (3-1), the loss can be attributed to spotty second half defense and costly penalties late in the game. On Higley’s final scoring drive, the Falcons were called for consecutive personal fouls – one for a late hit and the other for unsportsmanlike conduct – that put Higley firmly into field goal range.
“You can’t have dumb penalties. Period,” Coach Greg Davis said. “We’re not good enough to give up penalties in the first place, but personal fouls are completely unacceptable.”
Cactus Shadows’ offense was held in check for most of the game, but did score on an inventive play in the first quarter that saw backup quarterback Davan Norris throwing to starting quarterback Payton Ringwald after a lateral behind the line of scrimmage. The scoring play went for 75 yards.
“That play was actually going to be the first play of the game, but having the ball inside the ten yard line for the first possession is not really where you pull that out,” Davis said. “Kids like those plays and it was fun to see them run it.”
Antonio Marchica was the offensive star for the Falcons, rushing 25 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. Marchica also converted a 38-yard field goal late in the second quarter to pull his team within one point of Higley.
Davis hopes that despite the loss, his team can take away some positives from the game.
“Our kids hung in there and battled,” he said. “Having [Marshall] back for them definitely helped their game, but we take away that if both sides are playing well we can beat a lot of good opponents.”
Zubey feels that the undefeated start is a sign of things to come.
“We’re the second team in Higley history to start 4-0. The other one played in the state championship game, so hopefully we get some of that mojo,” she sid.
When asked if he’ll be sharing that statistic with his team, Zubey smiled and answered, “We’ve already mentioned it.”
Cactus Shadows 24, Higley 27
First Downs: Cactus Shadows 17, Higley 19
Rushing: Cactus Shadows 35-160, Higley 38-283
Passing (comp.-att.-TD-INT): Cactus Shadows 13-27-2-1, Higley 12-28-1-0
Fumbles-lost: Cactus Shadows 0-0, Higley 2-1
Penalties-yards: Cactus Shadows 9-91, Higley 5-57
Cactus Shadows 6 3 8 7 -- 24
Higley 7 3 7 10 -- 27
Higley: Colson 85 pass from Bloom (Fritz kick)
Cactus Shadows: Ringwald 75 pass from Norris (Marchica kick NG)
Higley: Fritz 37 FG
Cactus Shadows: Marchica 38 FG
Higley: Marshall 18 run (Fritz kick)
Cactus Shadows: Kirby 28 pass from Ringwald (Marchica kick)
Higley: Marshall 12 run (Fritz kick)
Cactus Shadows: Marchica 15 run (Marchica kick)
Higley: Fritz 22 FG