Catalina Foothills overcame a 15-point deficit in the third quarter at home on homecoming night to beat region rival and the no. 17-ranked team in 4A, Amphi 29-22 to throw a little cold water on the Panthers’ playoff hopes.
With 17 seconds remaining in the game, the Catalina Foothills defense stopped Amphi in its tracks two yards from the end zone and recovered a fumble on what probably would have been the game-winning drive.
“I told them we’ve grinded so hard that If we get out to a slow start, we have all of the components to keep firing and just believe in everything we’ve been doing,” Catalina head football coach Daniel Sainz said. “We’ve started a little bit later than most teams, and the fact that were here right now on the verge of getting back over .500 is huge for these young kids.”
After Amphi defensive end Jayden Corral stripped Catalina Foothills quarterback Connor Smith and ran it back 65 yards for a touchdown, the Panthers’ 15-0 lead with 8:38 remaining in the third quarter seemed like it might be enough. But the tide began to turn on the first play of the next possession when Catalina Foothills running back Yasuo Bean broke off a 75-yard touchdown run, narrowing Amphi’s lead to 15-8 with the successful 2-point conversion that followed.
Amphi drove the ball down the field to the edge of the red zone on the next possession, before Catalina Foothills defensive end Max Tenery came up with a massive sack to halt the drive, and any momentum Amphi was gaining.
Catalina Foothills tied the game at 15 with just over a minute left in the third quarter when it drove the ball into the red zone where Smith found Dylan Hadley on a touchdown pass.
The Falcons took their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter when Smith found Marcel Dixon in the corner of the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown pass that gave the Falcons a 22-15 advantage.
“I basically just read that safety,” Dixon said. “Whenever I read the safety, and I know I can eat him up, I’m gonna go for it. They gave me my corners all night, so that corner was wide open. There was a few times I didn’t get it, but when I did get it, I made sure to make a statement.
“Our offense just collectively as a whole did amazing tonight; I’m so proud of them.'”
The lead was short-lived. On the following possession, Amphi quarterback Carlos Ybarra connected with Paulino Sanchez to tie the game up at 22-22 with under seven minutes remaining in the game.
Catalina Foothills scored the game-winning touchdown on its next possession when Smith found Cole Revis on a deep touchdown pass to give the Falcons a 29-22 lead that Amphi could not surmount.
“These guys are learning how to win, and that’s the biggest thing – finishing games,” Sainz said. “That’s killed us against prior teams; they didn’t respond in this critical situation. They would have hung their head, and learning that is massive.”
Amphi’s star running back Kiko Trejo saw limited action throughout the game due to an ankle injury.
The lone touchdown of the first half was scored by Amphi lineman Jonathan Cardenas on a goal line run.
Catalina Foothills(3-4, 1-0 in the 4A Gila) plays next at Rio Rico (0-5, 0-1) on Friday.
Amphi (4-2, 0-1 in the 4A Gila) plays at home against Empire (4-4, 2-0) on Friday.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. for both games.
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. He is currently attending Pima Community College where he writes for the Aztec Press. Next semester he will be attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he will work towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.