Matadors Hold on Key 2-Point Conversion Attempt, Hand Prospectors Third Defeat
By Daniel Dullum
No sooner did Apache Junction score its second touchdown on Sept. 21, the decision to attempt a go-ahead 2-point conversion was made in the Prospectors non-region football game at Davis Field against Phoenix Shadow Mountain.
After AJ quarterback Gibson Limongello scored on an 18-yard touchdown run with 10:31 left in the fourth quarter, there was no hesitation on the part of the Prospector coaching staff in going for two. William Lohman ran up the middle, and the officials ruled he didn’t cross the goal line.
The score was Shadow Mountain 14, Apache Junction 13, and that’s how the contest concluded.
Prospectors Coach Vance Miller said, “Coach (Paul) Schreel and I discussed what we wanted to do. We saw an opportunity for a 2-point conversion and we didn’t want to trade scores with them, especially since they scored first.
“The play we ran … we’re going to look at the film. We thought he was in. We ran that play before and opened a hole a mile wide and thought we saw it. I guess we just got greedy and it backfired on us.”
“I believe that my feet were in, but didn’t hit the ground,” Lohman said. “But it’s whatever the officials call.”
Ronnie Fagan carried 20 times for 174 yards and a touchdown for Shadow Mountain. Quarterback Nainoa Shin completed 9 of 14 passes for 79 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Matadors Coach Ron Fagan said, “Our kids played tough and we’ve lost almost every game this year in the fourth quarter, so we’ve got the fourth quarter curse off our backs.
“We’re playing a lot of young guys, a lot of freshmen because our entire varsity is 32 kids. But this was our toughest game all season.”
Limongello ran 16 times for 145 yards, while William Lohman carried 13 times for 100 yards to spark the AJ ground game.
“That was part of the game plan, the way (Shadow Mountain) ran their 4-2-5 defense and we spread them out real wide, they left numbers in the box for us,” Miller said. “We outnumbered them by one, put the ball in the quarterback’s hands, and essentially outnumber them by two.
“We were able to get some good blocks and break him free. They’re bigger and faster and couldn’t break him for touchdowns, but we got some long runs.”
“I got a little dinged up when a dude fell on me, but I’m fine now,” Limongello said. “I really like what we’re doing at the line, our line really blocked great, and we were executing traps tonight really well and getting some big runs. It’s unfortunate that we came out with a loss.”
The Matadors (2-3) took a 7-0 lead nearly midway through the first quarter when Kyle Schoeppe intercepted a Limongello pass, setting up Fagan’s 73-yard touchdown run on the next play. With 2:48 remaining in the first half, Nicholas Iafrate’s interception stopped an AJHS drive at the Matador 29.
Apache Junction (2-3) tied the game at 7-7 on William Lohman’s 2-yard touchdown run at 6:50 of the third quarter. The Matadors responded at 11:47 of the fourth quarter when Jalen Williams hauled in a 5-yard TD pass from Shin, giving Shadow Mountain a 14-7 lead.
Manny Acosta’s interception of a Shin pass at the AJ 14 stopped a Matadors drive with 4:13 to play, but the Prospectors’ final drive was thwarted when Williams batted down a Limongello pass on fourth-and-five at the Prospector 31 with two minutes remaining.
From there, the Matadors ran out the clock.
“It was kind of a David and Goliath game out there with the kind of size Shadow Mountain had – their O-line was 300-plus all the way across – and we just had to play scrappy,” Miller said. “We just came up short in the end. If we had played one more quarter, we’d win.”
Limongello completed 10 of 17 passes for 97 yards, with Chris Lohman catching four passes for 37 yards. Defensively for AJHS, Acosta made three tackles and Freddie Borunda and Ethan Wright made two tackles each.
On Friday, the Prospectors host Phoenix Washington in the first 4A Black Canyon Region game of the season. The Rams are 2-3 following a 36-26 defeat last week by Phoenix St. Mary’s.
Junior fullback Ethan Labrue and senior defensive lineman Evan Mangan have served their AIA five-game transfer penalty and will join the Prospectors Friday.
“They’ll be key parts for us – one on offense and the other on defense,” Miller said. “We had a couple of kids get banged up that got banged up before, so we have to see how their recovery process goes, and we can roll through the region.”
Limongello said he’s “really excited” for the start of region play this Friday, saying, “I think we’re going to do really great. We’re going to start racking up the wins and do really great in the region.”
Photo above: Fox 10 Arizona Morning paid a visit to AJHS prior to the Prospectors’ return to the gridiron following a bye week. (Photo courtesy Facebook)