No. 48: Eloy Santa Cruz rallies to beat Agua Fria to capture 1966 championship


No. 48

CHAMPIONSHIP: Class 3A (known as Class A at the time)

SCORE: Eloy Santa Cruz 16, Avondale Agua Fria 13

DATE: December 2, 1966

SITE: Arizona Stadium

GAME SUMMARY: Eloy Santa Cruz won its second consecutive state title taking advantage of a fumble by Avondale Agua Fria quarterback Ken Searles at the Owls’ 20-yard line to score the go-ahead touchdown with 7:00 left in the game. A J.T. Burchett 11-yard pass to Les Rankin and eight more yards on runs by Rankin put the ball at the 1. Burchett followed with the winning touchdown plunge, putting the Dust Devils (10-2) ahead 16-13.

Lonnie Foster led his Eloy Santa Cruz Dust Devils to state titles in 1965, 1966 and 1969

The game was marred by penalties with Agua Fria flagged 12 times for 103 yards and Santa Cruz had eight for 106 yards. The Owls had three touchdowns called back because of penalties, including one with 2:36 left after Searles passed 19 yards to Mike Bowling in the endzone. A 15-yard illegal-use-of-the-hands penalty nullified the score.

Searles put Agua Fria (10-2) ahead 13-9 with a 54-yard touchdown run to cap the first possession of the second half.

Santa Cruz gained 209 of its 234 total yards on the ground. William Hampton led the Dust Devils with 124 yards rushing. Hampton scored on a 5-yard run with only 11 seconds left before halftime to put Santa Cruz ahead 9-7.

THEY SAID IT: “That was the meanest bunch we’ve ever met, but the kids stuck to it, hit hard and never let up.” — Santa Cruz coach Lonnie Foster told the Casa Grande Dispatch, which reported “some of the Santa Cruz boys displayed teeth marks on their necks after the game.”

Willie Hampton

DID YOU KNOW: Hampton went on to serve two tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Army. He was married to his wife, Doris, for 46 years and worked as an installation technician in the telecommunications industry. He was an Eloy city councilman and vice mayor before becoming the first black mayor of Eloy. He passed away from natural causes on Aug. 12, 2014.

BOX SCORE (printed in the Arizona Republic):

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