APACHE JUNCTION — A fiery halftime speech from Apache Junction coach Vance Miller woke his team out of a slumber, and it went on to dominate the second half in a 37-7 win over Vista Grande on Friday.
The Prospectors (2-2) led just 9-7 at half, aided by a safety on Vista Grande’s first possession of the game. But quarterback Gibson Limongello, the best player and leader of the team, had a dismal first half, completing just 1 of 12 passes for 13 yards with two interceptions.
Miller openly questioned Limongello’s leadership in his halftime speech, focusing most of his ire on the quarterback. And Limongello responded in a big way.
His first pass attempt of the second half was a 47-yard TD pass to receiver Cameron Garcia. The speedy Garcia also scored on a 54-yard run off an outside pitch in the second quarter.
“You can’t choose when you’re going to be a leader. You can’t choose when you’re going to do the right thing. It has to be an all the time thing,” Miller said of his halftime words to Limongello. “He took it to heart. He’s a good kid, he’s smart, and he understood that he was making some mistakes.”
After chewing Lilongello out, he told his quarterback that he believed in him, and he told Limongello to believe in himself. The motivational tactic worked. He was 3-of-6 passing in the second half for 79 yards, including the aforementioned TD to Garcia and a 25-yard scoring strike to Jordan Morris.
And while Limongello rushed for just 8 yards in the first half, he carried the ball four times for 53 yards in the second half. Running back Anthony Reyes had 12 carries for 59 yards.
Vista Grande (0-4) remained winless on the season. Despite a good effort that kept the game close in the first half, things got out of hand early in the second half.
“In football, you have to block and you have to tackle. In the second half, we didn’t do either one of those,” Spartans coach Chris Semore said. “In the first half, I thought we played really well, especially defensively, but we struggled on offense. Then we went in at halftime, and we just had too many miscues in the second half, and [Apache Junction] capitalized on those.
Without any running game, the Spartans had to rely on throwing the ball exclusively in the second half. That made for a tough night for Vista Grande quarterback Donald Altaffer, who completed 10 of 34 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.
The Spartans’ only score came on a 14-yard pass from Altaffer to Tyrese Constable in the second quarter. Constable led Vista Grande with two catches for 44 yards. Christopher Hernandez added three catches for 34 yards.
The Vista Grande defense made some big plays in the first half, as Constable and Louis Tellez each grabbed an interception. Tellez also blocked an Apache Junction punt in the second quarter, which Vista Grande recovered at the Prospectors' 20-yard line.