PHOENIX — Until late in the third quarter, Vista Grande had a good chance of winning, but costly turnovers were the story in a 33-12 loss to Phoenix St. Mary’s on Thursday at Washington High School.
The game was tied 6-6 right before halftime, and the Spartans (1-1) were driving deep into Knights (1-1) territory. With Vista Grande just outside the red zone, quarterback Donald Altaffer threw a short pass that was picked off by Jack Burch, and he returned it 86 yards for a score.
The Spartans should have had a 13-6 lead at the half. Instead it was a 14-point swing, and the Knights were up by a touchdown heading into the break.
“We had a good opportunity to score going into the half,” Vista Grande coach Chris Semore said. “It was a misread right there. He threw to the outside guy when he should have threw to the inside guy, and those things happen. The biggest part of that was we didn’t chase [Burch] down and tackle him.”
It was a night filled with miscues and undisciplined play from the Spartans, a frustrating game for Semore. But he took responsibility for the team needing to clean up those mistakes and play better.
Altaffer completed 22 of 42 passes for 187 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
St. Mary’s got on the board first with a 1-yard run by Liam Phelan in the first quarter. Vista Grande tied it up midway through the second quarter when Altaffer hit Carson Meiner for a 12-yard score. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed.
Altaffer’s second TD came midway through the third quarter on third-and-goal from the 16, and he found Tyrese Constable in the back of the end zone.
The Spartans had decent success on the ground, running 20 times for 95 yards. Luis Tellez rushed for 32 yards on five carries, and Constable had 32 yards on two carries.
Constable had eight receptions for 53 yards. Jace Atkins caught four passes for 45 yards.
On defense, the Spartans had real problems containing the Knights’ triple option attack.
“We just had too many mistakes. A lot of our stuff was self-inflicted,” Semore said. “When you play an option football team, you have to line up right every time, and you have to play assignment football every time, and we didn’t do that. And they capitalized on those mistakes.”
Phelan was the biggest beneficiary of those mistakes, carving up the Spartans defense for 201 yards and three scores on 18 carries.
St. Mary’s rushed for 340 yards as a team. Knights quarterback Nick Martinez had 55 yards rushing and a TD. He threw just three passes, completing one for 22 yards.