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San Tan Uses Aerial Attack to Upend Imagine Prep

By Daniel Dullum

MESA – Gilbert San Tan Charter used big plays to offset a penalty-plagued first half and defeat Imagine Prep-Superstition 28-12 Friday in CAA football at Highland Jr. High.

Junior wide receiver Kris Sippel hauled in scoring bombs of 72, 43 and 81 yards from quarterback Jalen Galaviz, the latter putting the Roadrunners ahead to stay three minutes into the third quarter.

San Tan (2-0, CAA Open Division) had a 76-yard scoring run by Nico Houck called back on an illegal block penalty on the game’s first play from scrimmage. That set a negative tone for the Roadrunners, who were penalized 11 times for 87 yards – 72 of those yards coming in the first half.

“Offensively, we were sloppy,” San Tan Charter Coach Cedric Jones said. “We had a bunch of penalties, so we have to be much more disciplined overall. That cost us a lot in the first half and allowed (Prep) to stay in the game.

“When we make mistakes and we’re beating ourselves, it doesn’t look very good. With 11 penalties, we’ve got a lot to work on.”

Imagine Prep (0-2) opened the scoring at 10:58 of the second quarter on Junior Figueroa’s 2-yard quarterback sneak, putting the Panthers up 6-0. STC wasted little time to respond with Sippel’s first touchdown reception on the Roadrunners’ ensuing possession.

Ezekiel McGarran’s interception at his own 20-yard line set up the second Panther touchdown, a 55-yard pass from Figueroa to Jonathan Benavidez with 1:13 left in the second quarter. But with seven seconds remaining in the half, Sippel again weaved through the Imagine Prep secondary for his second touchdown reception, tying the game at 12-12.

“We felt good about things at the half,” Panthers Coach Joe Crawford said. “But after we put together a good first half, the second half, we forget the momentum. Then, we’ve got to finish. That’s all.”

Sippel’s third TD catch, with a 2-point conversion run by Houck, put the Roadrunners up 20-12. San Tan Charter extended its lead to 28-12 when junior safety Tristyn Miller picked off a Figueroa pass with 10:18 to play in the fourth quarter, returning it 66 yards to complete the scoring.

In the final seven minutes, Imagine Prep had one drive stall when Eduardo Delgado lost a fumble following a pass reception at the STC 21, and, after recovering a San Tan fumble at the Roadunner 18, the Panthers’ drive stalled on downs.

In the second half, Figueroa noticed San Tan “was bringing the blitz from the linebackers a lot. Our linemen got kind of confused from it. But I rolled out sometimes, my receivers made plays. I give credit to my O-line – they played a heck of a game and picked it up from last week.

“It was a great game for us all the way around, and we’ll pick it up next week.”

“We made a few changes defensively,” San Tan Charter Coach Cedric Jones said. “We couldn’t contain their quarterback because he was getting outside the pocket.

“Until late in the game, it was a dogfight.”

Houck led the Roadrunners with 80 rushing yards on two carries. Galaviz threw for 225 yards on 5 of 12 passing for three TDs and one interception.

Jonathan Anaya was Prep’s leading rusher with 49 yards on 10 attempts. Figueroa completed 14 of 31 passes for 239 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Benavidez caught four passes for 104 yards, and Alex Maxfield caught four passes for 87 yards.

This Friday, the Panthers travel to Friendship Park in Avondale to face St. John Paul II. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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