PHOENIX — After a tough loss to perhaps the best team in 4A, the Poston Butte Broncos flipped the script against struggling Phoenix Northwest Christian with a 35-0 shutout. But as Broncos head coach Dain Thompson will tell you, no win (let alone a shutout) against a 4A opponent is an easy one.
Nevertheless, the Crusaders were facing an uphill battle against the Broncos, and just minutes into the climb, injury was added to insult.
On the third play of the game, quarterback Judah Huisman was hit on a keeper; he exited the game and never returned. Lefty backup Logan Fagerlie tried to fill Huisman’s shoes first, but struggled and was intercepted by Qulier Hightower three plays into his stint.
Following that turnover, the Crusaders nearly made a fourth down stand, but the Broncos had other ideas in mind and put faith in their run game early. On fourth-and-three, quarterback Drew Dalmacio ran one in from over 30 yards out. That was the first of three rushing touchdowns and a successful two-point conversion from Dalmacio.
“Once we cross the 50, I feel like if our run game is clicking, then we can be pretty potent and that was the idea,” Thompson said. “And then, once we got up early with all the injuries and stuff that we had, it was pretty much ground and pound.”
After that pick, Fagerlie was relieved by third string quarterback Ashton Kamp. Kamp looked more poised, but struggled nonetheless against a Broncos defense that seemed to find its rhythm and interrupted any opportunity he had to make a difference in this game.
After a dropped pass ruined the Crusaders’ best opportunity all night to score, they ran the same play to the same receiver. Defensive back Keith Gray read it like a book and intercepted an underthrown pass across the middle of the field.
Injuries certainly hurt the Crusaders' chances of being competitive on Friday night, but the Broncos also dealt with a number of injuries throughout the week and on game day that forced them into a next-man-up gameplan.
To Thompson’s estimate, Gray was one of just “six or seven” players who lined up in the Broncos’ defensive backfield. At one point, All-Conference defensive back Amari Gilmore lined up at outside linebacker. As the game grew out of reach, a number of Broncos who are normally deeper on the depth chart got their first real opportunities to show what they can do.
“The communication back there was really good,” Thompson said. “It was strong. I think we had just one blown coverage that I know of, but overall, it was a pretty good job for them.”
Running back Octavious Joe tacked on two more touchdowns and made it clear that the Broncos were the better team in north Phoenix on Friday night.
They accomplished five touchdowns on the ground despite being down two offensive linemen and blocking tight end Connor Lopez, who were injured last week against Glendale Cactus. Like they did with their defensive backfield, the Broncos were able to successfully shuffle around some lineman and running backs.
“We had a bunch of guys filling in that it was their first start or they moved positions and things like that, so it was really exciting to see them play that hard and that passionately,” Thompson said. The Broncos now sit at 4-2 as they head into section play against 4-1 Apache Junction in a game with serious playoff implications.