No. 45: Santa Cruz’s 1972 state title bid falls short after Miami’s late TD & 2-point conversion


No. 45

CHAMPIONSHIP: Class 3A (known as Class A then)

SCORE: Miami 22, Eloy Santa Cruz 21

DATE: November 22, 1972

SITE: Mesa Westwood High School

GAME SUMMARY: Eloy Santa Cruz appeared to have won the game when C.T. Strange intercepted a pass from Dan Rodriguez and ran 62 yards for the touchdown which broke a tie at 14 with 1:41 remaining in the Wednesday evening game on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Rodriguez responded with a 56-yard touchdown pass to George Padilla to cut the lead to 21-20 with 59 seconds left. Miami coach Harvey Keeney opted to go with the two-point conversion for the win and it worked, although it did not go as planned. Rodriguez pitched to Gilbert Beltran, who nearly fumbled but recovered in time to get into the end zone.

Santa Cruz’s attempt to go unbeaten came up short and the Dust Devils finished 11-1, the same record as Miami (which was routed earlier in the season by Santa Cruz 34-6).

Miami finished on top despite losing leading rusher Larry Baeza with a knee injury in the first quarter. Rodriguez’s 230 yards passing was the difference.

THEY SAID IT: “Our boys have nothing to be ashamed of,” said Santa Cruz coach Jay Denton told the Casa Grande Dispatch. His team won a semifinal game on the previous Friday, giving it only four days in between the title game. “Playing on Friday didn’t help us,” he addeed. “We had four weeks of hard football. The boys did a great job. Second-place isn’t so bad.”

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