Bright lights

Apache Junction

Draycen Hall and Mason Crossland had banner nights by halftime as Higley cruised on Friday night.

Hall, who almost has 1,000 yards rushing in five games, scored five touchdowns, including two long kickoff returns, and Crossland threw six TDs as Higley beat AJ 73-20 in Class 4A play Friday night.

Hall finished the night with 345 total yards, 156 on the ground and two 85-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns. Hall has 995 yards rushing, according to MaxPreps.

Crossland, with nearly 1,500 yards passing halfway through the year, had 217 yards in the air for Higley (4-1).

Apache Junction, suiting up just 25 players, stayed with the Knights for a quarter, even getting a long kick return of its own.

But the Prospectors (1-4) could not bounce back from a key sequence early in the second quarter that included a punt block and resulted in three Higley scores in a five-minute span. The Knights never looked back.

 “We are very gifted at the skill position,” Higley coach Eddy Zubey said. “A lot of people have to go out and respect that. But I give a lot of credit to our offensive line. We have the state’s leading rusher, regardless of division, and those guys are the ones making the holes for him.”

With a little luck, Apache Junction had a 20-19 lead in the first minute of the second quarter. But Higley quickly drove into Prospector territory. Hall had a 34-yard run and Crossland connected with Bryce Gilbert on a 12-yard score.

At that point, the Knights took the lead for good, grabbing all the momentum when Logan Maxwell subsequently blocked a punt and recovered the ball at the AJ 1. On the next play, Crossland hit Gilbert in the back of the end zone and Higley led 33-20 with 8:02 left. A short punt gave Higley the ball on the Apache Junction 45 and Crossland hit Cooper Jones on the next play – 39-20. By halftime, the Knights led 53-20.

“Mason, our quarterback, played the best game he has played,” Zubey said. “It may not show statistically, but the way he controlled their blitzes and what they were doing, and checking them, he played a very smart game tonight.”

The Prospectors matched Higley’s first score when Brandon Martinez went a school-record 96 yards on the ensuing kickoff to tie the game at 7 halfway through the opening period.

Hall returned the opening kickoff of the second half for his fifth score and Crossland’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Jones with 7:26 left in the third triggered a running clock the rest of the way.

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