Stellar defense, an explosive attack on offense, and a standout performance from Carlos Montoya Jr. helped Walden Grove take care of business in a 33-6 win at home against Desert View on Friday night to move to 2-2 on the season.
In a game that began as a defensive battle, Walden Grove held a 13-0 lead over Desert View (3-2) at halftime before pulling away in the second half.
“It was a great win. It was a lot of fun, it was exciting,” Walden Grove head coach Corey Noble said. “We shot ourselves in the foot there in the beginning for those first couple of drives, but we really turned it up in the second half and put them away. It was a great team win. Defense is killing it.”
Many may have written off the Red Wolves after beginning the 2023 season 0-2 after losses to Phoenix Northwest Christian and Phoenix Arcadia, but it was all part of the process for Noble.
“We made a couple of mistakes in those first ones. We played really, really good teams that we were very close with, and we made too many mistakes to win, and those are the games that we want to be in,” Noble said. “The biggest difference between those two games and the next two games is us not making as many mistakes and us playing better. So, that’s exactly where we want to be.”
For senior quarterback Gabriel Smith, losing the first two games of the season against tough competition helped prepare him for the success the Red Wolves are having now.
“It gave me confidence. A lot of confidence,” he said. “We played two big schools, and we showed out to those two big schools, and I felt like we just keep the roll, keep going with it.”
One of the keys to Walden Grove’s win on Friday night was the play of junior linebacker and running back Montoya, who had 10 total tackles (four solo), three tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble.
That’s just his stats on the defensive side of the ball.
Montoya had two catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 64 yards on two carries for a total of 186 yards on offense.
He credited the home crowd for playing a role in the victory on Friday night.
“The atmosphere here is amazing. That gets us going down the field, up the field,” Montoya said. “Stopping the (Desert View) offense on third downs and getting the offense rolling down the field. It’s just great here.”
As a sophomore, coaches selected Montoya to the All-Class 4A second team and the All-4A Gila first team last season. He was also the 4A Gila Defensive Player of the Year in 2022.
So far this season, he has only gained more confidence with the Red Wolves.
“I feel more comfortable with getting more into it,” Montoya said. Especially (in) my junior year, coming back with these guys and just being able to keep doing what I do with them.”
Smith is happy to have him along for the ride. The two have played together since their days with Sahuarita 49ers Youth Football.
“I’ve been playing on the 49ers with him since 12-U, 13-U,” Smith said. “It’s a great experience playing with that dude. That dude’s a baller, he’s a dog. He’s everything you could ask for from a defensive and offensive perspective.”
Noble believes Montoya’s work ethic has helped him develop into one of the state’s best high school football players.
“He just got bigger, faster and stronger, and he’s worked his butt off,” Noble said. “He’s one of the best players in Southern Arizona. Not one of the best 4A players, not one of the best players for a team not named whatever — he’s one of the best players in Southern Arizona and one of the best players in Arizona. He’s going to continue to do a lot of great things to prove that to people.”
Postgame Interview and Highlights
Walden Grove plays at Mountain View (1-3) next Friday at 7 p.m. Tucson time.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer 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 has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.