APACHE JUNCTION — With a chance to play in front of their hometown fans, the No. 6 seed Apache Junction Prospectors took on the No. 11 seed Kingman Lee Williams Volunteers, competing for a spot in the quarterfinal round of the 4A Conference State Championship.
The game started as a slow, defensive game, but quickly turned into a shootout in the first half. However, Lee Williams made quick work of getting the Prospectors out of rhythm, making them play catch up for the majority of the second half, sealing the 55-32 win, and reserving their spot in the quarterfinals.
The Volunteers drew first blood, scoring on a 5-yard touchdown pass from the arm of Lee Williams’ senior quarterback Devean Santos. Santos would continue to prove difficult to contain for the Prospectors, throwing for two more touchdowns and scoring one on the ground in the first half.
The Prospectors would capitalize on their chances to respond however, as they continued to answer back. Quarterback Gavin Limongello stuck with his style of scrambling out of the pocket and running around to find anything open in the back field. However, it was his running that paid the most dividends in the first half, with two rushing scores, and his backfield mate Isaiah Savoie getting in on the action with a rushing touchdown of his own.
The Prospectors found themselves tied at 20 with under a minute left before the half. But an untimely fumble recovered by the Volunteers cost them a chance to take the lead, as Lee Williams went up 27-20 to end the first half.
The second half saw Apache Junction’s momentum evaporate under the lights, with the Volunteers continuing to score at will, with the Prospector defense unable to do much to stop them.
Even with the odds on their side, being the higher seed and playing at home, it just was not enough to overcome potent Volunteer offense, and a stingy defense that made scoring difficult in the second half for the Prospectors.
“We kind of started to find our rhythm a bit in that first half, but we just had too many turnovers, we just got to give (Lee Williams) credit,” Prospectors head coach Bruce Binkley said. “They out coached us and outplayed us, it’s as simple as that.”
The loss will put an end to the state title hopes of the Prospectors, but Binkley told his seniors to keep their heads up high, and be proud of all the accomplishments they achieved in this 2021-22 season.
“(The seniors) had one of the best seasons this school has ever seen,” Binkley said. “They were happy when they finished 7-2, and I am happy for them. I thought they played their asses off, but we got beat by a good football team. At the end of the day, there is only going to be one team that is happy, and it is the team that wins it.”
Even with this year’s Prospector senior class moving on from the program, coach Binkley spoke about how there is a lot to be excited about in the future for the program. With Limongello and wide receiver stand out Garrett Garcia still having one more year with the team, and Savioe being only a sophomore. Binkley said that the team has more room to grow and be even better.
“We have gone 10-4 in the last two years, I said last year, and I will say it again this year, you ain’t seen nothing yet,” Binkley said. “We have taken a step this year, they did a great job through the first nine games, but it takes a great preseason, regular season and postseason. I think they know now, and maybe it will help us in the future.”
Although it is the end of the road for the Prospectors in 2021, if their young trio of Limongello, Savioe and Garcia continue to develop, they could make a serious run at the 4A State Championship title.