The first round of the playoffs have finally arrived in Arizona. It’s a new season for those who’ve entered and everything is on the line.
With the Playoffs, one will experience the high of victory and one will experience the crushing low of defeat. This week, in the 5A playoffs, the 11-seeded McClintock Chargers lost to the sixth-ranked Campo Verde Coyotes, 41-20.
The game started slow with both offenses failing to move the ball until the Coyotes finally found a rhythm. With four minutes remaining, Campo Verde was able to punch it in to score the first touchdown of the game. A few minutes into the second quarter after a bad punt, McClintock was able to get on the board with a 37-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Xavier Benitez to senior receiver Bryce Tate.
From there, however, the Coyotes would take control by scoring 27 unanswered points within the next two quarters.
Each of those touchdowns came from a turnover caused by the Coyotes, whether it was a blocked punt, a botched pitch that turned into an interception or two more interceptions thrown on back-to-back drives.
Senior linebacker Zach Harper, who scored twice on those turnovers, said it was the help of his teammates that made this possible.
“My defense, we just work as a team," Harper said. "We just communicate, play as one and we got the job done today."
Chargers coach Corbin Smith said the team’s failure to execute and make mistakes hurt them greatly in this game.
“We made mistakes early and didn't take advantage of opportunities prior to those," Smith said. "We didn't execute when we should have. Our defense fought their butts off, but they were on the field too long.
"This is the East Valley and the league Campo plays in is very tough. They took advantage of our mistakes.”
After digging such a deep hole for themselves, the Chargers would go on to score two more touchdowns before the game was over. But the Coyotes controlled the clock thanks to their hellacious running game, which helped them score once more touchdown.
Coming into the playoffs, Campo Verde coach Max Ragsdale said he knew the team had to get rid of their “rust” early to win this game. Though the offense started slow, it was the “calling card” of the team, the defense, that stepped up.
“That’s been our calling card for 11 years,” Ragsdale said. “It’s just been what we do and hang our hat on. We always talk, preach defense, we preach special teams and offense will do just enough and that’s kind of like what we did tonight cause defense travels.”
The loss ends McClintock's season after turning things around midway through the season.
The Chargers struggled early on, losing two of three and coming into October with a 4-3 record. However, they turned it around and won three straight games to end the regular season.
The team had a lot of talent on the offense with Benitez slinging the football and junior running back Jaden Mason leading the team in yards rushing. Meanwhile, Tate caught everything around him.
After the loss, Smith said the team had a “great season” and he was proud of how “the kids came together” and “played as a team.” For senior linebacker David Cisneros, the feeling after the loss was “unexplainable.”
“We’ve been four years (together), we all thought about getting the championship and it came to a blunt end and it was with my family, that’s all that counts,” Cisneros said.
The win sets up Campo Verde for a showdown with third-ranked Higley, an opponent the team is very familiar with. The Coyotes lost to the Knights earlier in the season, 52-30.
CV 7 14 21 0 -- 41
MHS 0 7 6 7 -- 20
CV -- Calloway 1 run (PAT), 4:39
MHS -- Benitez 37 pass to Tate (PAT), 11:00
CV -- Punt blocked recovered by Harper (PAT), 6:18
CV -- Interception return for a touchdown by Harper (PAT), :59
CV -- Herrera 11 pass to Hutchens (missed PAT), 9:53
CV -- Calloway 2 run (PAT), 8:13
MHS -- Benitez 1 run (failed 2-point conversion), 3:29
CV -- Fletcher 1 run (PAT), :35
MHS -- Cisneros 1 run (PAT), 10:16