Phoenix Sierra Linda freshman quarterback Camar Lee connected with senior wide receiver Stephon Daily for a 49-yard touchdown pass with 2:36 remaining to help the Bulldogs defeat Empire 14-12 in a defensive slugfest Friday night.
Daily appeared to be down near midfield after rolling over the top of a couple of Empire defenders, but his knees never touched the grass as he kept his balance and took off down the sideline for the touchdown.
“The guy scored. We had two minutes and thirty-six seconds left,” Empire head coach George Kelly said. “We got to be able to score. We had plenty of other opportunities during the game. So what’s going through my mind? I’m not worried about that. A lot of other guys were. We’ve got to move on; we’ve got to move forward. We got the ball. We have to score.”
The late fourth-quarter touchdown gave Sierra Linda its first lead of the game and sealed the deal in a game in which points were at a premium.
The loss for Empire (1-1) comes two weeks after a 20-0 shutout win at home against Rincon/University.
Empire’s defense set the tone early.
After Sierra Linda junior cornerback Keilitri Carr picked up an interception with 4:14 left in the first quarter, the Bulldogs marched down near the goal line but came up short on fourth and goal.
In the closing seconds of the third quarter, Empire junior quarterback Ethan Goodall scored a rushing touchdown on a 1-yard keeper to put Empire up 6-0. Sierra Linda blocked the PAT.
On the following possession, senior defensive end/tackle Michael Cosentino sacked Lee, forcing a fumble recovered by Empire. Unofficially, Cosentino finished with five sacks and forced two fumbles.
“Most of the credit should go to coach Kelly, our head coach. He schemed up a really good game,” he said. “He knew exactly what they were doing. That’s why we held them to such little points for so long. Obviously, we had a lot of playmakers, we had a lot of interceptions, a lot of sacks. that goes into it to.
“But, I think most of the credit should go to coach Kelly.”
Goodall found junior wide receiver and cornerback Ace Weissenberger in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown reception later in the second quarter. After a failed two-point conversion, Empire was up 12-0.
Midway through the second quarter, Lee connected with junior wide receiver Jackson Baird on a 20-yard pass. After a successful 2-point conversion, the score was 12-8.
Empire won the turnover battle by a wide margin in a game riddled with turnovers from both teams.
Junior wide receiver and strong safety Jared Ahuero finished with two interceptions.
“We come and hit, and you know what? I don’t think they were ready for that,” he said. We came in with physicality, playing the ball deep, and you know what? We’re gonna come back next week.”
As Empire moves on from a painful loss, Kelly is ready to go back to the drawing board and do what he knows best — coaching up his players.
“The only way I build on losses, is that for every loss, there’s wins in-between,” he said. “It’s going to be important for our guys to know the plays that we won on. Guys that won. It’s not just about the score. For our guys, we’re young; we’re thin. At the end of the day, it’s important that they know what they won in.”
Empire plays next Friday at Glendale Deer Valley. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
39. EMPIRE (3-4, 2-1)Head coach: George Kelly
Ravens compete in the 4A Gila. *Region game. Games are at 7 p.m.
|8/25||at Sierra Linda||L, 13-7||0-1||0-0|
|9/1||La Joya||W, 20-14||1-1||0-0|
|9/8||Ironwood Ridge||L, 28-0||1-2||0-0|
|9/15||at Pueblo||L, 31-6||1-3||0-0|
|9/29||at Sahuarita*||W, 33-14||2-4||1-1|
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He is currently attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.