In a defense-heavy 5A Metro contest at Kellis in Glendale, Maricopa High School lost the penultimate game of its football season in nail-biting fashion, 16-14.
The Cougars’ penchant for two-point conversions was the difference in the game Friday night when Maricopa could not pull off a last-second field goal. The Rams, feeling the pressure to win to have hopes of reaching the playoffs, were inconsolable afterward.
“The defense played their butts off,” head coach Chris McDonald said. “They played extremely hard. We left them on the field too much in the first half.”
Junior tackle Tylen Coleman had three sacks in the first half, and senior Zion Saole threw in another.
The teams battered on each other in the first quarter, frustrating both offenses. Kellis drew first blood with a 27-yard touchdown pass followed by a two-point conversion. The Rams, meanwhile, struggled to get out of their end of the field.
“The field position was horrible for us in the first quarter,” McDonald said.
The second quarter, however, started out with an interception by junior Jacob Cowing, which set up Maricopa’s first scoring drive. At the end of a messy possession, Cowing took a pass from senior quarterback Alec Smith 21 yards for the score.
Trailing by a point, the Maricopa defense continued to thwart the Cougars, overcoming a fumble and forcing the ball over on downs twice.
The Rams trailed the Cougars 8-7 at the halftime break.
With Kellis clamping down on Cowing and running backs Kemo Akins and Cam Sanders, Smith started breaking loose for long yardage in the third quarter. That threat helped Maricopa open up its offense on a long drive in the third that ended with Akins scoring from the 16 with 1:46 left in the quarter to go ahead 14-8.
Though penalties increased dramatically in the fourth quarter, Maricopa seemed to be finding its rhythm and taking control. But an interception at the 47 with 1:29 left in the game ultimately sank the Rams. It turned into a scoring drive, and suddenly Kellis was ahead 16-14 with just 54 seconds left.
Maricopa labored to get within field goal range. With just 2 seconds left and the Rams at third-and-15 at the 32 yard line, the field goal unit could not execute, and the game ended.
“The thing is, when you count on Cowing so much, they’re able to stack the box and then they double Cowing,” McDonald said. “We just need some other guys that can step up.”
Maricopa (5-4) closes out the regular season Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. by hosting McClintock (6-3) for Senior Night. As part of Red Ribbon Week at MHS, there will be a balloon release and other activities.