Imagine Prep-Superstition’s home 8-man football opener was far from perfect, as its high number of early penalties would indicate.
However, the Panthers put together a three-touchdown second-quarter surge to defeat Chandler Providence 36-8 at Prospector Park.
“We have some new players, some of them are new to football, and they had some early jitters in front of their fans,” Panthers Coach Jeremy Brigham said. “We’re still trying to keep their heads up and keep everything positive.
“We’re lucky some people really stepped up. Coach (Lance) Uehling’s defense held them to eight points and played an amazing game. But we have some stuff to clean up.”
Senior quarterback Seth Highstreet ran for two touchdowns, passed for another, and ran an interception back for his third TD.
“I’m in pain, but I’m glad we got our first home win,” Highstreet, who left the game on numerous occasions with injuries, said. “It hurts a little less with the win. It takes the pain away a little bit.”
Highstreet completed 3 of 10 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown; he also carried 11 times for 69 yards and two scores.
The Panthers (2-0) gained 202 total yards on offense, but were also whistled for 97 yards on 16 penalties – 47 penalty yards in the first half. Imagine Prep also had two touchdowns called back in the second half due to ineligible receiver penalties.
“We have a young team this year, so we just have to stay disciplined,” Highstreet said. “I’m just glad we were able to persevere through everything. (Providence) broke down mentally, and we took advantage of that.”
A fumbled kickoff return set up the Eagles’ lone score in the first quarter. Providence’s first touchdown pass was nullified by a holding call. But with 3:23 left in the first period, Rashad Jackson put Providence ahead with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Imagine Prep responded with Highstreet’s 10-yard scoring pass to Adrian Urquijo at 9:53 of the second quarter, tying the game at 8-8. Jason Morgan’s fumble recovery at the Panther 41 set up the Panthers’ go-ahead score – a 2-yard touchdown run by Ezekiel McGarran with 5:06 left in the period.
Nick Miller’s fumble recovery snuffed out an Eagles drive. With 42.9 seconds remaining in the first half, Highstreet ran in from a yard out, giving Prep a 22-8 halftime lead. The Panthers’ third score was set up by a 30-yard pass play from Highstreet to McGarran, moving the ball to the Eagle 6.
“The big thing for us in the second quarter was that we were finally able to move the ball,” Coach Brigham said. “We started completing passes, and later in the game, they were blitzing a lot, and we had to adjust. We found a balance on offense.”
In a scoreless third quarter, Imagine Prep’s Shayne Watson recorded a sack, and Davis came up with the Panthers’ first interception off Jackson.
With 7:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, Highstreet picked off a Jackson pass and returned it 38 yards, extending the Panthers’ lead to 28-8.
“That was the first one of my high school career,” Highstreet said. “And it won’t be my last one!”
In the fourth quarter, Morgan registered a sack and his blocked punt with 5:05 left set up the Panthers’ final touchdown, a 9-yard run by Highstreet.
Marquise Smith led the Eagles with 74 rushing yards on 13 attempts. Jackson did not complete a pass in 10 attempts, with two interceptions. McGarran gained 52 of the Panthers’ 129 rushing yards on six carries.
This Saturday, the Panthers travel to Phoenix Madison Highland (2-0).
“They’re good,” Coach Brigham said. “We have a tough schedule, and we have to start getting it together as a unit and get rid of all those penalties.
“But I saw some good things from our quarterbacks and receivers, so we’ve got a lot of good positives to build on. We’re learning as a family, and as long as everybody stays dedicated, it can be a positive season.”
Providence 8 0 0 0 - 8
IP-Superstition 0 22 0 14 - 36
P – Jackson 2 run (Jackson run)
IPS – Urquijo 10 pass from Highstreet (McGarran pass from Highstreet)
IPS – McGarran 2 run (pass failed)
IPS – Highstreet 1 run (Highstreet run)
IPS – Highstreet 38 interception return (pass failed)
IPS – Highstreet 9 run (Davis pass from Highstreet)