It’s an overworked phrase by now, but accurate to describe the 4A non-region football contest between Casa Grande Vista Grande and Apache Junction on Friday, Sept. 13 – a tale of two halves.
In the first half, while both offenses sputtered, the Prospectors managed a two-point halftime lead. A big third quarter ensued, and AJHS won its homecoming game 37-7 at Davis Field.
“At halftime, we challenged the offense,” Prospectors Coach Vance Miller said. “We told them it wasn’t acceptable, and they were not playing up to the caliber of how we practice. We challenged them to come out and play Prospector football.
“We came out with the hammer down and we executed the way we should execute.”
The Prospectors (2-2) took slightly less than 10 minutes to blow the game open with four touchdowns in the third quarter after leading 9-7 at halftime. At 10:22 of the third quarter, Cameron Garcia snared a 47-yard touchdown pass from Gibson Limongello, putting AJHS up 16-7. Four minutes later, Ethan Labrue rambled for a 33-yard scoring run to make it 22-7.
At 3:03 of the period, Limongello found Jordan Morris in the end zone for a 25-yard TD strike. With 37.3 seconds left in the third quarter, Gauge Kimbrell picked off a Donald Altaffer pass and ran it back 72 yards, giving the Prospectors a 30-point lead.
“Maybe I was a little nervous because of going for the touchdown record,” Limongello said. “Coach talked to us, we came out in the second half and fixed a few things. We came out ready and scored a few touchdowns. I was proud of everyone.”
Prospectors linebacker Zach Langenbach added, “Coach Miller really talked to us about turning it around and getting more aggressive. He also told us not to let the homecoming distractions distract you.”
Apache Junction led 2-0 at 11:42 of the first quarter, when the Spartans’ center snapped the ball over Altaffer’s head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Minutes later, Vista Grande’s Louis Tellez blocked a Morris punt, giving the Spartans the ball at the AJ 20. From there, Tyrese Constable caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Altaffer at 7:25 of the opening period, giving Vista Grande a 7-2 lead.
Less than a minute later, Apache Junction regained the lead for good at 9-7 on a shovel pass from Limongello to Garcia covering 54 yards.
“In the first half, we played really well, especially on defense,” Spartans Coach Chris Semore said. “Then we struggled on offense, and had too many miscues in the second half and (Apache Junction) capitalized on those.
“I loved where we were at halftime. I thought we were in a good position, and we left some points out there. We scored on the blocked punt, and had some opportunities in the first half. Our defense was lights out in the first half. I thought we would make some adjustments, come out and execute a little better,” Semore continued.
“In football, you have to block and you have to tackle. In the second half, we didn’t do either one, and the game got away from us.”
Limongello completed 9 of 24 passes for 168 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The senior signalcaller is within one of Adam Abbatacola’s team record 48 career total touchdowns, set between 2012-14.
Garcia caught six passes for 107 yards and two TDs, Morris had one catch for a 25-yard touchdown and Tommy Ryan had two catches for 21 yards.
Defensively for AJ, the Prospectors sacked Altaffer nine times – Cody Arbogast was credited with two. Ethan Wright led the Prospectors with eight tackles, followed by Langenbach and Michael Jada with seven each, and Brody Bullard with six.
“Our defense was lights out tonight,” Miller said.
COMING UP: BYE WEEK
The Prospectors have a bye week on Sept. 20 before resuming play on Sept. 27 at Phoenix Shadow Mountain.
“We need the week off to get some of these guys healthy,” Miller said. “It seems like when we get one guy back we lose another guy, but we didn’t lose anybody permanently tonight. Which is good; that’s the problem we were having before.
“Anthony Reyes is our number two running back and he still has a banged-up shoulder, so we were rotating him out to try and keep him fresh. Chris Lohman should be back (high ankle sprain) for the Shadow Mountain game. Gino Andrade should be back after the bye week, and he’s a middle linebacker we haven’t had since before the season started.”
Miller said practice will be light for the next week.
“We’ll only practice Monday through Thursday, and we’ll have team pictures on Friday!” Miller said. “Then we’ll start getting back after it.”
4A BLACK CANYON REGION GAMES ON SEPT. 13
Coconino 77, Cortez 12
Mesquite 45, Combs 20
Poston Butte 58, Dysart 7
Glendale 58, Thunderbird 36
Washington vs. Moon Valley