PHOENIX — It was a tough loss for third-ranked Santa Cruz Valley, as it fell to No. 5 Phoenix Christian 42-18 on Friday.
However, it wasn’t the score that left the Dust Devils worried; it was seeing their quarterback standing on the sidelines with crutches after he was carted off the field due to a knee injury with 7:31 left in the third quarter.
“He’s going to get it checked out, hopefully sometime this weekend,” Santa Cruz coach Rishard Davis said of quarterback Austin Hukill following his injury. “I think his knee has been bothering him, he was out a series last week against Thatcher. He said he’s going to get it checked out, and we’ll find out how severe it is.”
Davis added that even if the best-case scenario is that Hukill’s injury is minor, he will likely sit out the next game as a precaution so that he is good to go for the playoffs.
The Dust Devils began the second half trailing 7-6. Phoenix Christian started the third quarter with a 26-yard pass from Adrian Fleming to Jeremiah Montgomery. The Cougars added a 11-yard run from Man-man Freeman to move the ball into Santa Cruz territory, but a big penalty pushed them back past mid-field.
Following two incomplete passes Fleming connected with Howard Russell for a 61-yard touchdown pass and after the extra point kick, the Cougars led 14-6.
Santa Cruz responded with three carries by Hunter Ogle for 24 yards before Hukill and Arik Padilla added a 2-yard carry each.
The Dust Devils decided to go for it on fourth down and Ogle exploded for a big 40-yard carry and after a Phoenix Christian penalty, Santa Cruz was inside the 5-yard line.
That’s when Hukill kept the ball and made the run for the end zone but was stopped short and was carted off the field.
Padilla managed to capitalize on the drive with the touchdown and made it a 14-12 game as Ogle was stopped on the two-point conversion.
Phoenix Christian added two more touchdowns in the quarter, on a 20-yard carry from Freeman and 19-yard run from Fleming.
In to play quarterback for the Dust Devils was Anthony Clark, who at first struggled, but eventually managed to break out for some big runs.
The Cougars led off the fourth quarter with a 25-yard score from Fleming making it a 35-12 game.
“I don’t think that losing to a highly ranked team is probably going to hurt us that much, but I’ve seen some wild things before,” Davis said. “Our focus is we’re not going to worry about that and just come out the next game and make sure we come out with wins. If we’re winning, we don’t have to worry about all that.”
Ogle and Clark combined for 21 yards on five carries before a penalty against Phoenix Christian brought them to the 37-yard line where Padilla found his way into the end zone.
“We just tried to stay positive as much as possible on the sideline,” Davis said. “They’re disappointed for not making plays, and with teenagers it’s hard to remind them that we’ve still got minutes on the clock and we’ve got to play it out. We tried our best to keep them in the game and not look at the scoreboard.”
Santa Cruz is officially done with road games for the regular season and returns home next week to host Arizona Lutheran during its homecoming game.
“I hate homecoming because there are so many distractions, and we have a good team coming in,” Davis said. “I think this week we just have to be really focused because there’s so much going on. I know up to this, what we have, I feel comfortable with that, we’ll bounce back in the next game.”