By Frank Smith
San Manuel Miner
The San Manuel High School varsity football team traveled over to Oro Valley on Friday night to face off against the Pusch Ridge Christian Academy Lions. The Miners were on the hunt to pick up a much needed win in section play instead the Lions escaped with a 32 – 13 victory.
In the first quarter, the Miners kicked off to the Lions where on the second play of the Pusch Ridge drive the Lions fumbled the ball that was recovered by defensive lineman Antonio Montes.
The fumble recovery gave the Miners possession at the Lions 38 yard line. San Manuel’s offense drove down into the red zone after six plays but fumbled the ball on a pass that was caught and lost at the Lions one yard line.
The Lions set up their offense at the one yard line. Three plays later, while lined up at the 10 yard line, the Lions quarterback dropped back for a pass, firing it down field. Defensive back Daniel Medina eyed the ball and stepped in on the pass returning the ball 20 yards for the touchdown. The point after touchdown kick was good for a Miners lead 7 – 0 with 6:28 showing on the clock. The Miners set the tone early, letting the Lions know that there were in for a battle.
On the next possession for the Lions, Pusch Ridge started out at their own 35 yard line and marched the ball down field in six plays to the Miners two yard line where on the next play running back Tyler Overstreet capped of the drive with a two yard scamper into the end zone for the touchdown. The two point conversion try was stopped by linebacker Anthony Garcia to keep the Miners in the lead at 7 – 6 with 2:28 remaining in the first quarter.
The Miners were forced to punt after six plays, giving the ball back the Lions at their own 36 yard line. The Lions wasted no time as on the first play from the line of scrimmage running back Taylor Fitzgerald hit the ground running and sprinted down field for a 63 yard touchdown run. The extra point kick was no good and the Lions grabbed the lead 12 – 7 with :08 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Miners took possession on the ensuing kickoff and were set up from their own 40 yard line, San Manuel would take the ball deep into Lion territory with passes to tight end Jonathan Croci, running backs Shane Kelly, Anthony Garcia, and Armando Sierra. The Miners put together a 12 play drive that put them at the Lions seven yard line facing a fourth and goal. Quarterback Bryan Valdez stepped back and hit Croci with the pass that was stopped short of the goal line at the one yard line. Once again the Miners were denied at the goal line; a score would have given San Manuel the lead.
The Lions took possession at their own one yard line. Fitzgerald put together a string of runs that would line Pusch Ridge up at the Miners eight yard line after six plays where Fitzgerald would cap off the drive on the next play with an eight yard push into the end zone for the touchdown. The extra point kick by Aaron Penazek was good to add to the Lions lead at 19 – 7 with 3:03 left in the second quarter.
The Miners were forced to punt on their next possession after starting out at their own 20 yard line, on a three and out.
The Lions set up at the Miners 45 yard line and were forced to punt after four plays, the Lions did not want to give up that easy and attempted a fake punt from the 50 yard line but the Miners defense were not buying the fake and shut it down.
San Manuel would take possession at the Lions 45 yard line with :55 remaining before the half – the Miners were not only fighting the Lions defense, they were also fighting the clock as San Manuel had no timeouts left. The first play of the drive went to wide receiver Daniel Medina as Valdez hit Medina with a pass down to the Lions 19 yard line. The Miners lined up quickly to spike the ball to stop the clock; the next play was incomplete pass that would also stop the clock. Now facing a third down and 10 to go for the first down at the Lions 19 yard line, the Miners got called for a false start that would move the ball back five yards to the Lions 24 yard line. On third and 15 to go, running back Sierra forced his way down to the Lions eight yard line. The Miners hustled up the line to spike the ball after picking the first down. On second down and goal to go from the eight yard line, Valdez dropped back and fired a pass that connected with wide receiver Alvaro Alvarez for the touchdown with :18 left in the half. The two point conversion pass went incomplete to cut into the Lions lead at 13 – 19. The Miners drove 45 yards in six yards taking :37 on the drive.
The Lions would get the ball back on the ensuing kickoff but the Miners held them at bay to run out the time in the first half of play with the Lions holding on to a one touchdown lead 19 – 13.
In the third quarter, the Miners offense continued to move the ball on the Lions defense, San Manuel took advantage of the onside kick attempt to start off the second half – giving the Miners good field position in Lion territory at the Pusch Ridge 43 after a short return by the Miners special teams. The Miners held themselves back as the offense collected some key penalties that would set the Miners back and forth in Lions territory as far as the nine yard line. The drive ended for the Miners as a pass went incomplete in a fourth down and six to go at the Lions 24 yard line.
The Lions took possession at their own 24 and were forced to punt after six plays. Both teams traded punts on the next five possessions – taking the game into the fourth quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter with the game within in the Miners grasp – the Lions held a one touchdown lead at 19 -13with 3:28 left in the game; the Lions set up at the Miners 38 yard line after a short punt. The Lions struck quickly as Overstreet took the hand off on the first play of the drive and ran the ball down field 38 yards for the touchdown. The extra point kick by Penazek was good to add to the Lions lead 26 – 13 with 3:19 on the clock and in the game.
The touchdown seemed to take some air out of the Miners as they would now have to score twice in 3:19 instead of the one score needed to take the lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Miners special teams left the ball untouched at their own five yard line that was recovered by the Lions. The Lions went on to score as Fitzgerald ran the ball in from five yards out on the first play of the drive, the extra point kick was no good to put the game out of reach as the Lions took a 32 – 13 lead with 3:11 left in the game.
The Miners were not able to get a drive going and punted the ball away after three plays, the Lions took over and ran out the clock, escaping with the 32 – 13 win.
Offensively, Rushing: Shane Kelly rushed 15 times for 53 yards, Armando Sierra rushed seven times for 39 yards, and Anthony Garcia rushed eight times for 22 yards. Passing: Bryan Valdez went 6 for 20 for 76 yards with one touchdown. Receiving: Alvaro Alvarez had one reception for six yards with one touchdown, Daniel Medina had one reception for 25 yards, Shane Kelly had two receptions for 19 yards, Armando Sierra had one reception for 19 yards, and Jonathan Croci had one reception for seven yards.
Defensively, Armando Sierra had 13 tackles with a Forced fumble, Anthony Garcia had seven tackles, Jonathan Croci had six tackles, Bryan Valdez had five tackles, Jordan Peasley had two tackles with a fumble recovery, and Daniel Medina had one tackle with an interception for a 20 yard touchdown.
Head Coach Steve Elmore said, “I am very proud of the all the guys for how hard they played in the game. It was a dog fight the entire game and the fans who were there know it was much closer than final score showed. We will look to bounce back this Friday against Santa Cruz.”
The loss dropped the Miners to 2 – 5 overall and 2 – 2 in section play, the Miners will now face Santa Cruz with a 1 – 6 overall and a 1 – 3 section record.
The Miners will travel to Eloy on Friday night to take on the Dust Devils with kick off slated for 7 p.m.