PHOENIX — The Cholla Chargers have started the season 2-0 for only the third time in 21 years following a 21-8 road win over Maryvale on Friday. For head coach Virgil Henderson, the road game was a nice challenge for his team to measure where they’re at as they prepare to get into the thick of the schedule.
“I’m just blessed that my kids came to play,” Henderson said. “I was worried because it was a long two hours and 45 minute bus ride, and when you make that long trip, how is your team going to come off the bus? How is your team going to perform?”
It was a bit of a slow start to the game for both teams, as things were still scoreless by the end of the first quarter. However, the momentum was behind the Chargers, who came out with a 14-yard run to start the second quarter and set up the squad for a touchdown on the next play. Taking it the remaining six yards, Francisco Mendivil took it across the line to put Cholla on the board first. The kick attempt was good, making it 7-0 Cholla with 11:48 left before the half.
Maryvale got the ball coming back out of the half, but strong defense by Cholla shut things down. After deciding to go for it on fourth down, the Chargers were able to get the stop and force a turnover on downs, taking over the ball at the 29-yard-line.
Following a quarterback change, the Chargers marched down the field, capping things off with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Juan Guerrero to Alex Alegria. The extra point attempt was good, extending the lead to 14-0 with 4:16 left in the third quarter.
“[Guerrero] is an athlete, he can play anywhere,” Henderson said. “When we got him in, our offense started clicking better.”
On Maryvale’s following possession, more strong defense would ultimately shine through for Cholla, with Rocco Sotelo snagging his second interception of the night.
“[Sotelo] came to play tonight,” Henderson said about Sotelo.
After holding opponents scoreless for seven quarters, Cholla ultimately gave up a touchdown to Maryvale with 6:27 remaining in the game. The Panthers decided to go for two and were able to convert, making it 14-8 and giving Maryvale a legit shot to take the lead.
“That quarterback is a beast,” Henderson said about Maryvale’s quarterback Joseph Fuentes.
He continued, “He did so many big things, that kid is an athlete.”
The Panthers attempted an onside kick but were unsuccessful, giving Cholla the ball at midfield. Running down the clock, the Chargers were able to put up one more touchdown to extend the lead to 21-8 with 3:42 left to play.
Maryvale gave it all they had on their final possession of the game, but it wasn’t enough. Cholla would ultimately get the stop before running out the time remaining on the clock to pick up the win.
The Chargers will now prepare to face Pueblo in their rivalry game next Friday. Pueblo is coming into the game with a record of 1-1 after dropping Friday’s game against Vista Grande 14-7.
“We’re happy to be 2-0, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Henderson said. “There’s gonna be a lot of hype this week because it’s a rivalry, so our kids have got to stay focused on and off the field.”
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