CASA GRANDE — Vista Grande football has started the season with a 2-0 record only once in its 11-year history.
After rallying for a 28-21 home win over Phoenix Shadow Mountain, the Spartans will have that opportunity Friday night when they travel to Phoenix to take on St. Mary’s. The game will be played at Washington High School.
Beating the Knights (0-1) “would be huge for us,” Vista Grande coach Chris Semore said. “The kids are excited about the challenge.”
The 2015 Spartans opened with a 3-0 mark and hold the distinction of being the only team in program history to post a winning record (7-4) and qualify for the state playoffs.
Getting past St. Mary’s won’t be an easy task. Although the Knights fell 37-13 to ALA-Queen Creek last week, they trailed just 21-13 heading into the fourth quarter.
ALA-Queen Creek “is really good,” Semore said. “St. Mary’s has a new (coaching) staff and there’s always a learning curve when that happens.”
Semore said the Spartans will be defending against a St. Mary’s offense that relies mainly on a deceptive running attack.
“They run the triple option out of the shotgun, so our guys need to play assignment football,” he said. “They have to be where they need to be and gang tackle.”
St. Mary’s rushed for 265 of its 283 total yards against ALA-Queen Creek. James Atkinson gained 117 yards on six carries (19.5 average) with two TDs, and Liam Phelan ran for 115 yards on 20 attempts.
Quarterback Nick Martinez threw just six passes, completing five for 18 yards.
Vista Grande averaged 4 yards per rush against Shadow Mountain, compiling 107 yards on 27 attempts.
“That was a big factor for us in winning the ballgame,” Semore said. “It gave us some balance on offense, which we really needed.”
Quarterback Donald Altaffer produced gains of 15, 12 and 10 yards along with a 6-yard touchdown run on designed carries. He also had a pair of two-point conversion scampers. Louis Tellez picked up 21 yards on Vista Grande’s second play from scrimmage.
“We got some chunk plays,” Semore said. “When we ran it, we were pretty efficient. For the most part, I was pleased with our offensive line.”
Altaffer threw TD passes of 12 yards to Tyrese Constable and 8 yards to Tellez. The latter came on a fourth-and-3 play with 58.6 seconds remaining after Shadow Mountain went up 21-20 with 7:23 left in the fourth quarter.
Altaffer finished 11 of 26 for 155 yards with two interceptions. Constable had receptions of 29 and 27 yards, and Christopher Hernandez caught a 27-yard pass.
“We did enough to win,” Semore said, “but we left some opportunities out there.”
Vista Grande committed three turnovers, one of which was an interception on first-and-goal from the 2. That mistake became moot when Jace Atkins returned an interception 73 yards for a touchdown on Shadow Mountain’s ensuing possession to give the Spartans a 14-7 lead with 3:08 left in the second quarter.
The Spartans forced three turnovers, getting a fumble recovery by Michael Contreras and an interception from Constable.
The fumble recovery halted a potential Matadors’ scoring drive at the VG 5-yard line late in the third quarter with Vista Grande leading 20-14. Constable’s interception came with Shadow Mountain at the VG 24 on third and 10 with less than a minute left in the first half.
Shadow Mountain’s touchdowns came on passes of 63 and 43 yards and a 23-yard run.
“For the most part, we were OK but we had some breakdowns,” Semore said. ”We have some things that we need to clean up. The biggest thing is we played hard and created some turnovers.”