SAN TAN VALLEY - Cross-conference matchups are full of opportunity. They give the lower-tiered team a chance to prove that attendance numbers tell only part of the story and challenge the higher-tiered team to prove they are the bigger dog.
On Friday night in San Tan Valley, it was the former who came out on top with 3A Show Low’s 48-32 win over 4A Combs.
Typically, when a team puts up 32 points, they should have no trouble coming out with the win, but still-undefeated Show Low was able to get out fast and forced the Coyotes to play come-from-behind football from the start.
“We were in fight back mode right from the get-go,” Combs head coach Travis Miller said. “I felt like we stopped them pretty well across the board until they had those three big plays where guys got deep over the top of us. You put yourself in a hole and it’s hard to dig out of it.”
One of those three big plays happened on Show Low’s first drive of the game. A Combs offensive line breakdown forced them to punt. Then, on 4th-and-12, the Cougars took advantage of a defensive miscommunication and quarterback Colten Yeager connected with Layne Perkins for a 50-yard touchdown.
Show Low never trailed the game after that and led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter.
The fast start made it difficult for Combs to climb back into the game, but it was Show Low’s consistent exploitation of a hole in the Coyotes’ run defense, especially in the second half, that was responsible for them maintaining the lead.
Running back Ryan Kishbaugh saw plenty of carries, including a six-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. It was a sign of things to come.
The Coyotes threatened to make a comeback at the end of the first half when quarterback Tanner Hale scored the two of his three rushing touchdowns and had his team well within striking distance with 24 minutes left to play.
Plenty of Coyotes were able to get in on the action offensively alongside Hale, including running back Tanner Nino, who caught a touchdown from Hale, as well as wide receivers Hunter Clare and Tanner Price.
But once again, the Coyotes were unable to shore up the struggles in their run defense and Show Low took advantage. They opened the half with another rushing touchdown from quarterback Yeager, followed by a 61-yard burst from Kishbaugh that put them up 15.
When Yeager left the game with an injury, his backup Nash Brewer broke off for a big run on his first snap and scored on a keeper late in the game; the nail in the coffin was Brewer’s pick-six that followed.
“They found a really nice weakness in our defense in the second half in running the ball,” Miller said. “We didn’t have issues scoring, but usually when you score 32, you don’t lose but it’s because of that hole we put ourselves in earlier.”
With the loss, Combs falls to 2-3 on the season and look forward to a bye next week. After that, they are slated to begin section play with a road game against Phoenix Arcadia.