The first half was dominated by defense and turnovers
This semi-final matchup saw two great defenses slowing down high-powered offenses to begin the game. The opening drive for the Chargers saw the Phoenix cornerback Jaxson Eastman intercept an Isaac Wilson pass. This would be the first of three first-half interceptions thrown by Wilson. With 3:00 left in the first quarter, Phoenix linebacker Cole Noble intercepted another Wilson pass to end a Chargers drive.
No scoring for both teams until the end of the first quarter and the Chargers struck first. A deep pass from Wilson to receiver Jackson Ames covered 94 yards for a touchdown and the Chargers took a 7-0 lead. With 9:00 left in the first half, Wilson threw his third interception of the half, and this one was by the Phoenix all-region safety Dayton Runyan. The Charger’s defense quickly responded and sacked Phoenix quarterback Easton Wight on the next possession backing them up inside the 5-yard line.
The Chargers used a short field after a Phoenix punt to drive down the field and score a touchdown on a Wilson to receiver Tate Kjar 21-yard catch. With 7:25 left in the half, the Chargers led 14-0. The offense began to find some hole in the Charger’s defense on their next possession. Two long passes from Wight to wide receiver Ben Stucki moved the ball inside the Charger’s 10-yard line. With 4:39 left in the first half, the Phoenix scored their first touchdown on running back Travis Hoopes’s 2-yard run.
Offenses drive for scores before halftime
The Chargers quickly moved the ball into Phoenix territory on their next possession and running back Drew Patterson scored on a powerful 15-yard touchdown run. Patterson’s touchdown made the score 21-7 with 1:26 left in the half. With 1:00 left until halftime, the next Phoenix drive saw Wight find Stucki, who made a spectacular catch over two Chargers defenders for a 29-yard touchdown. This touchdown was set up by a spectacular 52-yard kickoff return by Runyan making the score 21-14
Wilson led the Charger’s next possession, and a 32-yard Patrick Rasmussen field goal made it 24-14 at halftime.
Phoenix takes charge in the third quarter
The Phoenix scored on their first second-half possession set up on a Wight to Stucki 3-yard touchdown pass. This score was set up by Wight’s pass to receiver Mitch Nielsen and the Charger’s lead to 24-21. The Phoenix’s defense held the Chargers on the next series and Wilson threw his fourth interception. Runyan intercepted Wilson for the second time in the game to give the Phoenix an excellent field position.
The Phoenix’s momentum continued with a Wight to receiver Dante Coats touchdown off a tip in the end zone. This score gave the Phoenix their first lead at 28-24.
Chargers special teams change momentum
The next kickoff saw the Charger’s returner Bryton Brady score from 87-yards out. This touchdown for the Chargers made the score 31-28 with 3:00 left in the third quarter. Charger’s linebacker Owen Borg blocked the Phoenix’s next punt and ran in for a touchdown. The Charger’s quick scores made it 38-28 to start the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter saw Wilson score on a 5-yard quarterback keeper. The Charger’s defense held up and did not allow the Phoenix to score and the final score was 45-28.
The Phoenix’s receiver Ben Stucki made spectacular plays and finished with six catches 121 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Wight outplayed highly recruited Wilson and finished with 275 yards three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Runyan continued his all-state performing season with two interceptions and ended his year with nine total picks. The Phoenix team battled through injuries and made this an exciting contest.
The Chargers used a 122-yard rushing day from Patterson to lead them to victory. The offensive line led by seniors Kai Sevy and Matthew Snarr played outstanding games. Linebacker Borg led a tough defense and had the game-changing blocked punt to seal the win.
photo courtesy Kim McFadden IG:kmacphotographyy
More amazing photos of the game by Kim at https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/cgxyuya9uoaetyu38w37e/h?dl=0&rlkey=4ogrteksovlhwtee1tuc9gxzr