From senior night, to homecoming, to back-and-forth scoring, Desert Vista's matchup against Corona Del Sol had everything one looks for in a football game.
But it did not start out so exciting. Both teams struggled early, but the Thunder ultimately prevailed, defeating the Aztecs 29-22 on Friday night.
Emotions were running high for Desert Vista’s football team, but they quickly met the brick wall that was Corona del Sol’s defense.
Corona coach Jon Becktold said pre game that he was unsure if he had the guys to stifle Desert Vista’s explosive offense, but they quickly proved him wrong.
“We’re trying to hope to contain them," Becktold said. "Our goal is always the same. Compete as hard as we can for 48 minutes and we’ll see what happens after that."
In the first half, Becktold’s defense did what he thought was impossible as they held the Thunder to only one touchdown and intercepted Desert Vista senior quarterback Parker Navarro. They also held the Thunder’s running back duo of Tyson and Devon Grubbs to 24 yards on five first-half carries.
On offense, Corona rode sophomore running back Anyale Velazquez and dual-threat junior quarterback Quade Swearingen as much as it could. Velazquez finished with 24 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns, one rushing and one passing. Swearingen carried the ball nine times for 33 yards and completed 13-of-22 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown.
The score at halftime was 7-7.
In the second half things became interesting as penalties haunted Desert Vista. Head coach Dan Hinds believes that penalties were what really held back his offense.
“It was the penalties and you know we’re just going to have to take a look at the film and see what it was,” Hinds said.
Even with all of the penalties, the second half turned into somewhat of a shootout.
The Aztecs broke open the third quarter with a trick play. Velazquez took the hand off, dropped back and completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Jake Schmitt.
The Thunder quickly responded as Navarro scrambled for a 50-yard touchdown with just five seconds left in the third quarter.
After stopping Corona del Sol on fourth down, the Thunder drove down the field and capitalized on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Navarro to senior tight end Braeden Belnap.
Less than a minute later, Swearingen hit Schmitt on a screen pass, and he took it 53 yards for his second touchdown of the night. He then caught the two-point conversion putting the Aztecs up 22-21.
With just over two minutes left, Navarro led the Thunder through an unconventional two-minute offense. On third down he threw what should have been a game-sealing interception, but the ball went right through the cornerback’s hands and fell straight into senior wide receiver Colton Grover’s lap.
“That was just God doing his work,” Navarro said. “I put the ball a little too high and Colton caught it off the bounce, made a great play, and you know, magic happens sometimes.”
The 25-yard completion set Desert Vista up inside the 10-yard line where junior running back Taron Thomas punched in the game-sealing touchdown. Navarro rushed for the two-point conversion, putting Desert Vista up by seven points for good measure.
The Desert Vista defense was then able to hold off a last second heave from Corona del Sol.
Navarro completed 11-of-16 passes for 123 yards, one interception and one touchdown. He also rushed 10 times for 99 yards and two more touchdowns.
“It’s huge," Navarro said. "Just for all the seniors it’s an emotional game, but it means the world to get this victory and do it in the way we did."
Hinds echoed Navarro’s comments as he could not stress how grateful he was that his team was able to pull out a senior night victory for a class that he loves so much.
“There are so many things that I love about this senior class that I could go on and on," Hinds said. “I’ve coached teams in the past where kids have created distractions and as a head coach I have to handle those distractions. These guys have given me nothing. No distractions. Nothing I’ve had to handle so I’ll have got to do is coach them. It’s been great.”
Senior running back Colby Humphrey also stepped up when the Thunder needed him most as he extended multiple key drives late in the game. He finished the game with 80 yards on 9 carries and never believed that their offense wouldn’t get the job done.
“We were in a tight spot, so you know we had to make it happen,” Humphrey said. “Our line really stepped up. We all make mistakes as an offense, but at the end we stepped up.”
The Aztecs (3-6, 1-3) will finish out the regular season next week at home against Mountain Pointe (1-8, 0-4).
As for Desert Vista (7-2, 3-1), it will take on Queen Creek (6-2, 2-2) in their last game of the regular season.
DV - 7 0 7 15 – 29
CDS - 7 0 7 8 – 22
CDS – Velazquez 1 run (Schineller kick), 5:34
DV - Navarro 2 run (Hauck kick), 0:45
CDS - Velazquez 26 pass to Schmitt (Schineller kick), 1:24
DV - Navarro 50 run (Hauck kick), 0:05
DV - Navarro 7 pass to Belnap (Hauck kick), 3:12
CDS - Swearingen 53 pass to Schmitt (Schmitt two-point conversion), 2:17
DV - Thomas 1 run (Navarro two-point conversion), 0:46