Gilbert — The Marana Tigers were just a few plays away from being able to pull of an upset over Higley on Friday night in their 29-24 road loss. Coming down to the wire, Marana still had a chance to take home the win with around 20 seconds remaining in the game, but their failure to convert on a fourth and long ultimately resulted in the final turnover on downs.
Following the game, coach Phillip Steward told the players in their huddle he was owning the loss.
“We don’t get a lot of games like this,” Steward said. “I need to do a better job of scheduling more teams like this so that we’ll be ready and prepared for teams like this.”
Things got off to a quick start for Higley, putting up the first touchdown with around ten minutes left in the first quarter on the first snap of the drive. Exploding from the line of scrimmage, Daxen Hall took the ball 85-yards to give Higley the early lead. Following a good extra point attempt, the Knights were up 7-0 with a lot of time left to play.
On Higley’s following possession, an interception by junior Dezmen Roebuck would give Marana great field position and ultimately set them up for a touchdown. Capping off the short drive with a seven-yard touchdown run was senior quarterback Jason Wood, putting the Tigers on the board. However, Marana attempted to go for two and couldn’t convert, making it 7-6 with 4:31 left in the first quarter.
To start the second quarter, the two traded back-to-back touchdowns to make it 15-13 Higley. First, Wood was able to connect with senior Jaelen Collins before a good extra point by senior Tyson Tschida made it 13-7. Hall then countered with another explosive play before going for two and converting.
Shortly after, Roebuck would make a dynamic play and taking the ball in for a touchdown. Tschida’s kick was good, making it 19-15 with 8:28 still remaining before halftime.
On Higley’s following possession, a high-snap deep in the red zone would ultimately result in a safety, extending Marana’s lead to 21-15 with 4:12 remaining. The Tigers weren’t done yet, as Tschida was able to put up a field goal with two minutes to go in the half to push the lead to 24-15.
While the second quarter was a productive one for Marana, the third quarter was quite the opposite. A slew of penalties resulted in a large amount of lost yardage, which Higley was more than happy to capitalize on.
“That third quarter we had seven penalties, and that cost us the game,” Steward said. “If we don’t have those seven penalties, this game is ours. Plain and simple. Those penalties got them back in the game.”
Steward noted the team gave up around 60 yards in penalties, making it easy for Higley to score.
With his third touchdown of the night, Hall was able to take it across the line on a short run. The extra point was good, making it 24-22 Marana.
Marana defense was able to snag the second interception of the night with a fantastic read made by junior Andres Taylor. Once again with great field position, the Tigers struggled to capitalize this time as the Higley defense dialed up the intensity, turning the ball over on downs.
From there, Higley was able to regain the lead on another huge play by Hall, taking it more than 50 yards for a touchdown. With a good extra point, it was 29-24 with 10:19 remaining in the game. The Tigers didn’t back down from the fight, but ultimately they couldn’t battle back and get the win.
Marana now sits at 1-2 on the season and is preparing to take on Mountain View (0-3) in their annual Battle for the Boot next week. It’s a game both Steward and the players are excited for.
“That game alone is gonna bring a lot of hostility, so my job this week is to get them in that environment at practice. Bring that chaos at practice so we’ll be ready to go next Friday,” Steward said.
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