Desert Vista may have had the big plays early, but it was Phoenix Pinnacle that got even bigger plays late.
Pinnacle (2-0) scored twice in the fourth and once in the second overtime to pull out a 28-21 victory Friday night over host Desert Vista (1-1).
"We're still a young program, and in certain years, we would have fallen behind and there would have been some doubting," Pinnacle head coach Dana Zupke said. "But they never stopped believing."
Pinnacle's Conner Jeffries finished with 119 yards on 26 carries, picking up a pair of touchdowns along the way - including the would-be clinching score in the top half of the second overtime, from 10-yards out.
Playing without its starting quarterback, a top receiver, and a big chunk of its offensive line, Desert Vista still made a go of it, leading 21-7 heading into the fourth quarter before giving way to the Pioneers.
Quarterback Cody Sokol, receiver/cornerback Ryan Anderson and linemen John Rivera and Jacob Magrath were among a host of Thunder players missing from the Desert Vista lineup and the Thunder Stadium sidelines Friday night. The East Valley Tribune reported prior to the game that as many as a dozen Desert Vista players had been suspended for violations of team rules and school policy, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
Postgame, Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said he could not comment on who was held out of the lineup and for what reasons.
"We were a little shorthanded tonight, and had some younger guys come in and play," Hinds said.
Sean Coffinger, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound junior, started at quarterback for the Thunder. The Desert Vista coaching staff kept him on a short leash most of the night, with Coffinger completing 3 of 9 passes for 36 yards, but with three interceptions. Coffinger's last two throws were intercepted, in the first and second overtimes, respectively, with the latter to finish the game off on a fourth-down pass play with the Thunder trailing by seven.
Pinnacle wide receiver Conner Wessel scored both of the Pioneers' fourth-quarter touchdowns, one on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Alex Cappellini, the other on a 17-yard Cappellini strike. Cappellini also carried the ball 20 times for 59 yards.
"One of our best receivers was out with the flu tonight, so we knew the rest of us had to step up," Cappellini said of wideout Alex Zemezonak, who served as placekicker Friday, but did not line up on offense.
Desert Vista senior Anders Battle proved his talents multi-dimensional yet again for the Thunder, scoring on an 83-yard interception return in the second quarter and a 77-yard run in the third quarter in the third.
Desert Vista sophomore back Michael Arredondo scored on a 67-yard touchdown run on the Thunder's first play from scrimmage to give Desert Vista the early 7-0 lead.
Other than its three big-play touchdowns, however, the Thunder could only muster 41 total yards elsewhere, carding just three first-half first downs.
"The 'D' did all they could," Hinds said. "I think the defense being on the field that long was hard of them. We were gassed."
Desert Vista next takes the field Thursday at home for its annual rivalry tilt - the Ahwatukee Bowl - against unbeaten Mountain Pointe. Pinnacle also plays Thursday, at home against Tucson Rincon.