PHOENIX — After rushing for more than 1,600 yards this season, the game plan for Sequoia Pathway entering the Canyon Athletic Association’s open division championship was simple – run the football.
Unfortunately for the Pumas on Saturday night at Bourgade Catholic High School, Gilbert San Tan Charter had other ideas.
The Roadrunners quickly jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and the Pumas never recovered – falling 29-6 in the championship game.
“We had to face adversity early, and we didn’t bounce back. Lesson learned. We will be back,” Pathway coach Donnie Margerum said.
Entering Saturday, Shane Miller led the Pumas rushing attack with 578 yards on 80 carries, but the Roadrunners were able to limit the senior to just 22 yards on 10 carries.
Miller was responsible for the Pumas’ lone score of the night in the fourth quarter – a 1-yard run that cut the lead to 20-6.
“They jumped on us,” Margerum said. “A lot of balls went their way. A lot of the kickoffs. We had three kickoffs that went into their favor. They got two recovered and we got one inside the 2-yard line. That hurt us a lot in getting the ball in bad field position.”
Miller’s score marked just the second time Pathway drove into the red zone after watching drives stalling out at midfield.
In addition to the poor field position, penalty yards also cost the Pumas on numerous occasions.
The Pumas had in excess of 150 penalty yards, including numerous calls for personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties – in some cases multiple calls on the same play. That was a lot to overcome compared to the Roadrunners, which were penalized for about 50 yards.
“It comes with the territory,” Margerum said. “I don’t want to say it’s the referees’ fault, but we lost the game. We lost the game and we will be back.”
Kristofer Sippel got San Tan on the board when he found Isiah Galaviz for a 3-yard touchdown pass. Galaviz later added a 5-yard run and Sippell would later find Xavier Johnson for a 19-yard touchdown pass to make it 20-0 at the half.
Sippell added his third touchdown pass when he found Johnson again in the fourth quarter.
Sippell ended night with 122 yards passing, completing 10 of 12 passes, while Galaviz rushed for 104 yards on 12 carries.
“It just took us out of our game,” Margerum said. “We are a running team and getting behind like that, we were forced to throw the ball.”
Quarterback Alex Montano led Pathway with 98 yards passing while completing 6 of 12 passes.
The loss is the first loss for the Pumas this year and they ended the season at 9-1. Top-seeded Pathway advanced to the championship game following a 44-0 win over Southpointe while No. 2 seed San Tan Charter defeated ASU Prep Phoenix 33-13.
The Pumas defeated San Tan Charter twice earlier in the year – a 34-9 win on Sept. 27 and a 28-12 win on Oct. 18.
“I’m super impressed with the boys,” Margerum said. “They did everything I asked them to do. It was just one of those games. It’s hard to beat a team three times in a row and they are a really good over there – a well-coached team."