COOLIDGE — With their position being on the outside looking in entering Friday night’s regular season finale, the Coolidge Bears made one final statement, hoping it would be enough to convince the powers that be that they belong in the playoffs.

If Friday was to be their final game of the season, they ended things the way they had played all year, relying on the strengths of their offensive line and running game, namely Tad Lynch, who finished his stellar senior season with a 191-yard, four-touchdown performance as the Bears (6-4, 3-1 in 3A Central) cruised to a 60-6 victory over the San Tan Foothills Sabercats (1-9, 0-4 in 3A Central).

“The word for the week was ‘passion’ and I think they played with a lot of passion,” said Coolidge coach Rodger Schenks. “They came out here and played hard for each other.”

The game belonged to Coolidge from the very beginning, as Belclem Namegabe ran 91 yards on the first play from scrimmage to give them the lead, and they never looked back. Senior quarterback Connor Ferguson also went out in style, building a nice connection with sophomore Wanya Brookshire, who scored his first career touchdown.

Foothills actually moved the ball a decent amount with its own running game, including 46 yards from Klayten Jones, 39 yards and a touchdown from Emilio Soto and 46 yards from Anthony Eriacho. However, they were lacking that final boost to actually get them in the endzone, with their only score coming in the final seconds of the first half when they were already down 45-0.

“We tend to shoot ourselves in the foot and have a silly penalty or a turnover,” said Foothills coach Michael Carlin. “We found some ways to move the ball up and down, but when it got down to the red zone, we just didn’t perform as well as we should have.”

Coolidge’s defense played a big part in that, forcing four turnovers, including two big ones by sophomore Jalil Bishop, who has turned into quite the promising prospect during his debut season. He took the ball away from a Sabercat kickoff returner on one play, and on another he clearly figured out a trick play, smothering the passer to get the ball in the air before catching it himself and running it all the way for a pick-six.

Finally, Comar Jeffries finished off a strong career at Coolidge with a powerful 5-yard touchdown, his third of the season. His colleague in the backfield, Lynch, finishes the regular season with a team-high 18 touchdowns.

Now the Bears have to wait until Saturday to see if they can somehow sneak into the postseason. They entered the game ranked 20th in 3A, meaning they would have to jump a minimum of four spots to make it. However, the 3A conference allows for some adjustments to be made based on the evidence, and Schenks believes his team has some arguments.

First of all, he argues, they don’t have any bad losses, as two came against region champions in Yuma Catholic and Mesa Eastmark, and two quality 4A teams in Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin and Tucson Mica Mountain. Their wins include region champion Phoenix Christian, defending champions Santa Cruz and rival Florence.

He also argued that because schools 4A and larger still have two games to play because they started later and have a bye week. That affects a team like Coolidge that has faced multiple 4A teams, but aren’t getting strength of schedule credit because those opponents still have games left on their schedule.

“I think we have done enough,” Schenks said. “I feel that we’ve played some really good football teams. I know when it comes down to it you have to win, but I think we’ve shown we can play with some teams, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

There will be no playoffs for San Tan Foothills, but they’re a team looking for any sort of momentum in the big picture. That has been hard to come by as they have seen one head coach after another leave after just one season at the helm. That’s about to change, Carlin said, as he fully intends to be back next season and give the players the same message for once.

“We’re building a culture of family and playing for each other, and we’re going go forward with that,” Carlin said. “They’re not gonna have to worry about who their coach will be like they have in recent years. There will be consistency, and that will help us.”

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