MHS football

The Maricopa High School football team runs onto its home field Thursday its season opener.

MARICOPA — Senior quarterback Cipriano Childers made his first varsity start for Maricopa, and there was no better time to shine under the lights in the first game of the 2020 season.

In a standalone Thursday night affair, Maricopa and Surprise Willow Canyon played the first varsity football game in Arizona after a pandemic-delayed start to the season, and the Rams came away with a 27-19 win.

In a wild finish, Childers was 8-of-14 for 192 yards, totaled four touchdowns, and secured the victory in his debut.

“It feels great to get a win under our belt,” Childers said, smiling. “It’s overwhelming and a good feeling to be back throwing the ball around and being with my teammates.”

The running game also clicked for Maricopa, as star running back Mister Chavis rushed for nearly 250 yards.

In the first half, it seemed that it was going to be a sluggish game, as going into halftime the Rams were up 7-0 and totaled 141 yards of offense. The Wildcats had a hard time moving the ball, finishing with 134 total yards. Both teams combined for 13 penalties.

Once the teams came out of the locker room for the second half, they seemed sharp and suddenly, the offenses began moving the ball down the field.

“We made a lot of adjustments,” Childers said. “We looked at film throughout the whole game, and we went over how we can take advantage of their defense. We did that and went out and had fun.”

Maricopa jumped out fast in the second half building a 27-6 lead, but Willow Canyon didn’t go down easily.

After Childers ran in for a touchdown, the Wildcats marched down the field and scored on a bizarre play. Wildcats quarterback Xereque Parham was looking for wide receiver Donovan Williams, but the ball deflected off Williams’ hand and into the arms of running back Vance Cooper for a 19-yard touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, Willow Canyon forced Childers to throw an interception, then two plays later the Wildcats ran it in for a touchdown to make it a one-possession game.

With less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats forced a three-and-out. Before Maricopa could punt it away, the punter’s knee touched the ground on the low snap. The Wildcats would get the ball at the Maricopa 28 with 2:29 remaining.

Maricopa’s defense stood strong, forcing an incompletion in the end zone, then it took advantage of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Wildcats. The Wildcats were down to their last play on fourth-and-goal from the 25-yard line, but the pass was knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

Maricopa survived the late comeback effort, but there’s still work that needs to be done.

“We moved the ball well,” said Maricopa coach Brandon Harris. “We just got mauled down by mistakes that hurt ourselves. The only team that can beat us, is us. If we just settle down (and) do what we're supposed to do, we will be all right.”

Even though the Rams committed double-digit penalties in the Thursday win, they are glad they can play football again and start the season like they wanted to with a victory.

“It’s incredible to kick off,” Harris said, smiling. “It was amazing that we were the only two teams playing today to start the season in Arizona. I got a bit emotional earlier because these kids and all the kids across the state of Arizona had to fight through a lot just to get here. The kids have been incredible, and I’m proud of them.”

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