Apache Junction, eliminated from 4A playoff consideration a week ago, won its final game of the 2019 football season on Nov. 1, defeating rival Combs 42-28.
The Prospectors finished with a 7-3 overall record, 4-1 in the Black Canyon Region. Combs wound up 3-2 in the region, 5-4 overall.
“You get a rivalry game, and everybody is on high emotions and getting after it,” Prospectors Coach Vance Miller said. “It was a fairly clean game for the most part and I was glad about that.”
Senior quarterback Gibson Limongello wrapped up his high school career by completing 12 of 16 passes for 207 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. He also led the Prospectors with 115 rushing yards and a TD on 13 carries.
On defense, Limongello snared an airborne fumble late in the fourth quarter, returning it 65 yards to the Combs 9.
“It was cool, but the team was in the right position and I was just back there to catch the ball,” Limongello said. “I started running and the guys blocked really well. My legs actually started cramping up at about the 50, so I ran with a cramp in my calf, but when I got tackled, it was a good experience to have everyone cheering, knowing we just won that game.”
Elsewhere on offense, Ethan Labrue ran 11 times for 49 yards, as the Prospectors gained 200 rushing yards on 34 attempts. Cameron Garcia caught five passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, Jordan Morris caught a pair of passes for 39 yards and two TDs, and Labrue caught a 3-yard touchdown pass.
On the defensive side for AJHS, Ethan Wright had nine tackles, 2 ½ sacks and an interception. Labrue also had nine total tackles, and Zach Langenbach finished with six tackles and his fourth-quarter interception snuffed out a Coyotes drive.
Combs opened the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tre Buck and an interception by Levi Tuckfield set up the Coyotes’ second score – a 92-yard run by Joey Jensen.
“We started off slow, offensively and defensively,” Miller said. “We said, ‘Wake up.’ Once we started waking up and rolling, we started playing the kind of football that we know we can.
“We had a lot of younger and replacement-type guys in there tonight because of some injuries. I think they just needed to get their feet wet, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Apache Junction tied the game at 14 and 21 in the second quarter and 28 in the third before surging ahead to stay on Limongello’s 15-yard scoring pass to Morris with 2:34 left in the period.
Limongello’s 28-yard touchdown run with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter provided a 14-point cushion for the Prospectors.
One of the tough sells for Miller and his staff over the final week was convincing a dejected Prospectors team that this was their playoff game.
“We struggled with the hangover of that,” Miller said. “And it went on all week and into the first quarter. Once they got a taste of where the game was going, they buckled down, and knew what they were going to do.”
“This meant a lot to the seniors and the whole team, and the coaches,” Limongello said. “We knew we weren’t going to the playoffs, so we really wanted to win this game and go out the right way.”
No playoffs perhaps, but the Prospectors had the opportunity to win their final game of the season, with 7-3 having a nicer ring to it.
“Coach (Paul) Schreel was saying that, and Coach (Rod) Reid might have said that too,” Miller said. “Last year, we were 7-4 with a loss in the playoffs, but it’s a great record.
“Going 6-4, it’s a winning record, but it’s just a little better than average. That 7-3 just feels real good.”