With Skyline’s starting running back hobbled this week in practice, sophomore Aaron Wood knew he’d likely be in line for a heavier workload Friday than he’s used to in his normal role as the Coyotes’ No. 2 back.
Armed with that knowledge, Wood made sure the extra carries were more of a boon than a burden, and with the help of some clutch defense late, made sure Skyline came away with the victory.
Wood rushed for nearly 200 yards and accounted for both of Skyline’s touchdowns as the Coyotes held on against visiting Red Mountain, winning 17-14.
"I’m impressed with our young running back,” Skyline coach Angelo Paffumi said. “He did a great job. I don’t know what he had, but he did what he had to do.”
Wood finished with 198 rushing yards on 32 carries, scoring twice in the second quarter to give Skyline a 14-7 lead.
Filling in for injured starter Kaleb Hardin, who was dealing with an ankle sprain and was held out of Friday’s game until late in the fourth quarter, Wood collaborated with his offensive line to carve up Red Mountain’s defense, recording eight carries of 10 or more yards on the evening.
“All week, Coach had been telling me, ‘Step up. You’re the guy,’” Wood said. “I knew I had to prepare myself and be ready for this week.
“All year I’ve been taking handoffs, so it’s not like I haven’t been playing. But I knew I’d be taking more carries, so I just had to step up.”
Skyline (8-1, 4-0) clinches the 6A East Valley region championship, while Red Mountain falls to 5-4 and 2-2 with the loss.
After Alan Gomez converted a 27-yard field goal to give Skyline a 17-14 lead near the end of the third quarter, the Coyotes held strong in the fourth, halting one Red Mountain drive with a goal-line interception and ultimately forcing a turnover on downs on the Mountain Lions’ final possession.
“That’s what close games come down to,” Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski said. “They come down to a play or two, and you have to make those plays when you have the opportunity. It’s not about scheme at that point, it’s not about strategy – it’s just about making the play. And they did a better job of that when it mattered the most.”
*Killian is a Tempe-based freelancer.
Skyline 17, Red Mountain 14
RM 7 0 7 0 - 14
S 0 14 3 0 - 17
RM – Lawson 20 run (Huffman kick), 10:01
S – Wood 21 pass from Duarte (Gomez kick), 11:15
S – Wood 1 run (Gomez kick), 4:51
RM – Lawson 41 pass from Duffy (Huffman kick), 6:06
S – Gomez 27 FG, 0:12
First downs 10 18
Rush-yards 29-176 50-230
Comp-Att-Int 7-13-2 7-15-0
Pass yards 98 131
Total yards 274 361
Fumbles/lost 3-1 1-0
Penalties 4-35 13-103
RM – Lawson 17-80, Duffy 6-44, Lujan 4-49, Pereira 1-3, Romero 1-0. S – Wood 32-198, Duarte 8-4, Fernandez 6-6, Hardin 3-8, Crawford 1-14.
RM – Lawson 4-6-0-22, Duffy 3-7-1-76. S – Duarte 7-15-1-131.
RM – Pereira 3-34, Daniels 2-19, Lawson 1-41, Rappoport 1-4. S – Glover 2-58, Wood 2-37, Crawford 2-28, Uasike 1-8.