ELOY — In a game that no one expected, played due to COVID-19 cancellations from their respective opponents, Saturday night featured a matchup between 4A Casa Grande Union and 2A Santa Cruz Valley.
It was a much more competitive game than the rivalry games both teams played against Vista Grande and Coolidge in the past two weeks, as the Cougars got the 35-14 win.
“They were the only other team with an opening. We both got canceled on kind of last minute,” CG Union coach Jake Barro said. “They’re always up for a challenge and bottom line is we want our kids to play, they want to play. They took the game, and we were grateful that we got this thing going last minute. They’re tough and they do an awesome job, so it was a great test for our kids.”
The second half began with a 21-0 CG Union lead and all the momentum, but David Avilez had other plans, returning the kickoff to CG Union’s 30-yard line.
The Dust Devils (3-1) couldn’t capitalize on the good ball position as they attempted to go for it on a fourth down, but the ball was fumbled by quarterback Wyatt Ogle and although he recovered it, he was swarmed by Cougars to turn the ball over on downs.
“Just [told them] to keep fighting,” Santa Cruz coach Rishard Davis said of what he told his team at halftime. “We can’t force things, just keeping fighting and good things will happen. We can’t wish for them to happen, that’s all we told them. We weren’t upset with them or anything, just keep fighting.”
CG Union later found itself going for it on a 4th-and-16 but had a different outcome from Santa Cruz, as Angel Flores connected with Demetrius Garrett for 20 yards. Flores capped off the drive with a 13-yard run to extend the Cougars’ lead to 28-0.
While it seemed like the Cougars (3-1) would easily cruise to victory, the Dust Devils (3-1) thought they had a touchdown as Ogle found Dylan Hukill in the end zone, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty.
Santa Cruz still managed to get on the scoreboard as Hunter Ogle charged through on a 6-yard carry then converted on the two-point attempt.
That touchdown caused a shift in momentum as the Dust Devils attempted an onside kick with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter, but the referees claimed that the ball did not travel 10 yards, which gave CG Union good field position.
Although Santa Cruz did not get the onside kick, it still got the ball back before the end of the quarter as Hukill picked off Flores near the 5-yard line.
Santa Cruz began the fourth quarter and marched down the field, as Hunter Ogle capped the 95-yard drive with a 13-yard run.
“I feel like we should have done better,” Barro said. “We should have matched their physicality; I don’t think we did that as well as we should have. (Hunter Ogle) is a great back, we were able to contain him which was obviously the key to victory. That’s why we came away with the W, because we shut him down to an extent. Proud of the guys for that.”
Wyatt Ogle looked to Sias Lopez for the two-point conversion but could not connect, and the Dust Devils cut the deficit to 28-14 with 10 minutes left in the game.
During the kickoff, Santa Cruz attempted an onside kick again and this time it was successfully recovered by Joaquin Jimenez.
The image of both teams on the field had flipped as the CG Union defense looked tired while the Dust Devils offense looked like the Energizer Bunny and just wanted to keep the momentum going.
“They’re a good team,” Barro said. “You know they’re gonna do something and they’re gonna makes moves. When they got that onside kick and they bounced right back. [Hunter Ogle] is one of the best running backs in the state, that’s not a secret, everybody knows that so he’s gonna hurt you. They’re a very good football team and we knew they were going to make a move sometime and when they did it was big time.”
However, the wind was taken out of their sails as Wyatt Ogle was picked off by Dee Azcueta at the 5-yard line.
“That was a big turning point,” Barro said. “It shifted momentum. They’re driving and they’re driving, we get an interception to shift that momentum and that really helps. We learned that we have to play physical every single week, we learned that little things add up to a big difference; a couple tackles missed here and there, they’ll hurt ya with the kind of offense they run. The other thing that we really learned is we were canceled on, we got to play last minutes and we’re just grateful to be playing.”
The Cougars slowly ate away at the clock and scored their final touchdown on a 1-yard carry by Flores.
CG Union’s early first half scores were on a 34-yard pass from Flores to Garrett, a 4-yard carry from R.J. Keeton which was set up by a great 22-yard catch by Justin Campbell and a 7-yard run by Flores.
“We want to win, but it is what it is,” Davis said. “We’ll watch film and correct any mistakes that we had, and hopefully we’ll feel a little bit better about next week.”
Flores was for 9-for-16 with five passes over 20 yards and finished with 203 passing yards, one interception and one touchdown. He also rushed for 106 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns.
The junior quarterback was sacked twice by Diego Castillo-Lopez and then by Davin Ethington and Ricardo Alaniz.
Garrett caught four passes for 94 yards and one touchdown.
For the Dust Devils, Hunter Ogle rushed for 145 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns, and Avilez and Alaniz combined for 83 yards on 13 carries.
Wyatt Ogle’s two completed passes were to Orlando Davis Jr. and Lopez for 29 yards and 17 yards, respectively. He also rushed for 32 yards on eight carries.