Offense and Defense Enjoy Big Night in California as AJHS Upends Royal 28-7
By Daniel Dullum
After traveling 447 miles to play its football season opener, Apache Junction emerged victorious on Friday night, defeating the Royal Highlanders 28-7 at Simi Valley, Calif.
The Prospectors (1-0) departed for California Thursday afternoon.
“Coming in on Thursday was the best thing for us to do,” AJ Coach Vance Miller said. “That gave the kids enough down time to get some rest. We went to Cal Lutheran, did warmups at noon on their field, and that was a great experience. We had plenty of time to warm up and be ready.
“We’re pretty happy. It’s our first time playing out-of-state and we’re coming home with a ‘W.’”
AJ won the battle of total offense, gaining 296 yards to 192 for the Highlanders (0-1). The Prospectors held a huge edge on the ground, outgaining Royal 155 rushing yards to plus-5.
“Right from the get-go, we were smothering them defensively,” Miller said. “We moved the ball just fine. In the first half, our defense was stopping (Royal) on a short field. We were able to sustain some drives, (quarterback) Gibson Limongello ran well and picked up some key first downs on rollouts.
Miller said Royal “did what we saw on film, pretty close to what we saw in our preparation. Our game plan was pretty solid.”
The Prospectors opened the scoring in the first quarter when Justin Ramirez connected with Limongello on a halfback reverse pass play of 24 yards. AJ made it 13-0 on a 10-yard scoring pass from Limongello to Gino Andrade.
William Lohman scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns from 1 yard out in the second quarter. Joe Pomeroy’s 2-point conversion run put AJ up 21-0 at halftime.
Royal battled back early in the second half when Ryan Flora threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Torres, cutting the Prospectors’ lead to 21-7 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
Apache Junction answered with a 38-yard TD run by Lohman with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. Freshman Jordan Morris added the extra point – his first as a varsity player.
Defensive highlights for the Prospectors included a pair of interceptions – one each for Eli Alexander and Freddie Borunda.
This Friday, Tempe High (1-9 in 2017) pays a visit to Davis Field to play the Prospectors in its season opener. Last year AJ defeated the Buffaloes 24-20.
“Tempe is big and fast with a lot of athletes. In fact, this is the best talent they’ve had in years,” Miller said. “If we have an edge, it’s that we have a game under our belts and they don’t. It’s going to be a tough one.”
Miller said there were a couple of injuries in the win over Royal, enough to where “we’ll have to move some personnel around. We’ll have to make some adjustments.”
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Above: Apache Junction players and coaches settle in on the bus, awaiting the trip to Simi Valley, Calif., to open the 2018 high school football season against Royal High.