COOLIDGE — Following a demoralizing defeat to Santa Cruz Valley a week ago, Coolidge coach Rodger Schenks called out his best players for not playing at the level that is expected of them.
“I hope they took it personally,” Schenks said Friday. And it appears they did, as running back Greg Rodriguez scored five touchdowns and the Bears (2-1) never let its foot off the pedal to win 56-0 against American Leadership Academy-Ironwood (0-3).
As the score suggests, the two teams were at different levels. The Warriors only scrapped out two first downs the entire game, one of them due to a pass interference penalty. And unlike last week when turnovers killed any shot they had of winning the game, Coolidge instead was the one forcing the issue with four forced turnovers.
“The scoreboard is the least of our worries at this time,” said ALA coach Travis Epperson. “We need to be able to look each other in the eyes, and you need to know that no matter whose eyes you’re looking at, that they gave their absolute best. That’s how you build trust, and I can’t simulate these opportunities with a team in another jersey. You have an opportunity to prove to yourself and your teammates that you’re willing to fight no matter what.”
Rodriguez finished with 149 yards and at least one touchdown in every quarter. Under center, Jacob Gunter had a mistake-free game, throwing 9-14 for 204 yards and a touchdown. Of those, 132 yards and the touchdown were to Connor Ferguson, who also added an interception to his stat sheet. Augustin Chiang got an interception of his own, and Charles Jeffries forced and recovered a fumble on a kickoff return that he took all the way to the endzone.
“We’re not a finesse program. We’re a go-after-people program,” Schenks said. “We didn’t play four quarters of football the last two games. But we have some guys coming back for us on defense, so they needed to step up and play a complete game.”
Epperson said he and his coaches will look at what they’re doing with the gameplan to make sure the players are being put in the best position to succeed, but it’s up to the players to expect more of themselves and each other when they get back to practice.
Nothing is certain this season, and that goes particularly so for a school like ALA-Ironwood that is in San Tan Valley, where two schools — San Tan Foothills and Combs — were shut down for almost two weeks in the span of only a few days. Epperson said the adults struggle with how to take in all the news and relate it to the kids, not knowing if each day is going to be the last of the season.
“I think especially when you’re losing, plus not knowing for sure if you’re going to play again, it’s draining. I think they’re doing the best they can,” Epperson said. “I can’t set how many opportunities you’re gonna have to be teammates. We might be shut down tomorrow. I don’t know when that is, so take advantage of every day, and be grateful. There are some teams that didn’t get to play tonight. So win, lose or draw, we get to play, and we’re gonna fight on another day.”