APACHE JUNCTION — According to Apache Junction head coach Bruce Binkley, there is no such thing as a moral victory; not with the kind of athletes and program he has.
Nevertheless, Thursday night’s performance against the defending 4A Conference champions Gilbert Mesquite was a spirited performance for the Prospectors to be proud of, despite falling 28-20.
“I was very proud of how they fought,” Binkley said. “This team’s the defending state champions for a reason. We went toe-to-toe with them, couldn’t be a closer game and they pulled it out in the end and that’s what champions do, and we’ve just got to learn and see if we can do it next time.”
After starting the season on a three-game road trip which included 90-minute trips to Buckeye and Oro Valley, their first home game was a testament to the strides the Prospectors made since last week’s win over Buckeye Youngker. Despite the victory, Binkley was not pleased with some of the unforced errors that happened.
But Binkley said earlier in the week that he did not believe the mishaps to be a trend; it was just a matter of tightening screws and tightening up things that every football team in America must tighten up week-to-week.
Fast forward to Thursday night, penalties were kept to a minimum and they came out on the winning end of two gutsy fourth down calls.
On a 4th-and-18 in the second quarter, the Prospectors drew a roughing the passer penalty. It extended a drive that lasted over nine minutes and set up quarterback Gavin Limongello’s first rushing touchdown and the Prospectors’ first lead of the night. In the third quarter, they moved the chains on another fourth down and managed a field goal.
“We just got to go,” Binkley said. “We’re all in here. We’re doing the best we can, and we got beat by a better team and a good coach.”
Limongello ran in his second touchdown of the night with 5:18 left; things were tied with just over one minute remaining in the game, but the Wildcats made the most of the time left on the clock as running back Blake Corner broke the tie for the final time.
Sophomore running back Isaiah Savoie made a massive impact on the ground and defensively, the Prospectors recovered two fumbles; one was just before the half and negated a successful fourth down conversion by the Wildcats that robbed them of an opportunity to increase their halftime lead.
But it usually takes a near-perfect performance to knock off the defending state champions. The Prospectors’ performance was certainly efficient, but it also saw them settle for field goals in the red zone on two occasions.
Mesquite senior Andrew Morris also scored the Wildcats’ first two touchdowns when he capitalized on defensive miscommunications by the Prospectors; the Prospectors also failed to score after that pre-halftime fumble by the Wildcats.
In the end, the Wildcats took advantage on a scarce number of Prospectors’ mishaps and it made all the difference.
The loss was Apache Junction’s first of the season; they sit at 3-1 overall and turn their attention to next week’s matchup against Fountain Hills (2-2).