QUEEN CREEK — Excitement and fireworks were in the air on Chandler Heights road just west of Ellsworth on Friday night, but the fireworks were not the only thing booming at American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek.
The Patriots squared off with the Poston Butte Broncos to kickoff the 4A football season and it was the high-scoring affair that most expected with the defending 4A runner-up Patriots coming out on top, 52-28.
The Broncos got off to a fast start offensively, but beating a team like ALA takes a near perfect performance- something that is a lot to expect of a team with as many young varsity starters as Poston Butte has.
“We knew their offense was going to be fast. It took a little bit for us to catch up to the speed (of the game) because we can’t simulate that stuff in practice and they just do a really good job,” Poston Butte head coach Dain Thompson said. “We did some good things throwing, some good things running but our offense, we just have some key components who don’t have that many snaps and so we’re just off a little bit.”
The Patriots took their first lead with Ryan Meza’s second quarter touchdown, but the wheels began to fall off the tracks for Poston Butte at the beginning of the third quarter. The Patriots put the game out of reach with a Mitch Jensen two-yard touchdown early in the second half.
Two touchdowns is an achievable deficit to overcome on most nights, but very few teams in the state are able to put up points like the Patriots are; that deficit became even harder to overcome once they found their footing and put up a whopping 31 second half points compared to the Broncos’ 14.
The Patriots’ explosive second half negated an impressive first half by the Broncos on both sides of the football.
Defensively, they kept the Patriots to just 21 points and gave themselves a chance to tie the game at the end of the first half with a forced fumble, but came up about 20 yards short of the end zone and turned the ball over on downs.
Offensively, the Broncos were matching the Patriots’ level of high-octane offense with two quick blink-and-you-missed-it touchdowns. On the game’s first drive, senior quarterback Drew Dalmacio, in his first varsity start under center, connected with his 6-4, 215 pound tight end Connor Lopez for a 40-yard touchdown.
Lopez’s score was followed by a touchdown from senior Octavious Joe, who showed off his track star caliber speed and returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but Joe’s run was just one of two touchdowns scored in two minutes and 20 seconds as it was matched by the Patriots’ Elijah Peters.
The Broncos are known for their smash mouth style of football and brought a steady diet of carries into their 2021 season opener, but several of those carries came from deep on the depth chart. As expected, Octavious took the brunt of the carries, but three other Broncos took carries as well- junior Aidan Contreras and seniors Keith Gray and Justin Evans.
Thompson saw this game as a worthy measuring stick going forward and cited the need to clean up some typical first week of the season miscues before they head into their next match up, scheduled for Thursday. The game is against St. Mary’s, a rematch of last season’s first round playoff match up when the Knights upset Poston Butte.