Tempe Splashes Its Way to Football Win Over AJ

Prospectors, Buffaloes Wait Out Monsoon Shower to Complete Non-Region Contest

By Daniel Dullum

As time expired in the first half of the Apache Junction-Tempe high school football game on Aug. 24, a monsoon shower extended halftime to an hour and 45 minutes while converting much of Davis Field to Davis Lake.

After the weather system moved on, game officials and coaches of the two teams discussed the situation and agreed to continue the game, which concluded at 10:50 p.m. with the visiting Buffaloes emerging with a 23-6 non-region triumph.

Prospectors Coach Vance Miller said, “Ideally, we wanted to finish the game (Saturday), but Tempe didn’t want to do that. Both parties have to agree. The last thing we wanted to do was call the game at halftime.

“The first thing is for the kids. They’ve worked too hard just to play a half and would have gone into the books as a loss. We figured we needed that opportunity to give it a shot to take a lead and win. The Tempe coach (Brian Walker) said they wanted to finish it tonight and he felt the same way about his kids too – they’ve worked too hard to play only a half.

Miller said the Prospectors were “OK with playing a little bit later.”

“We assessed the water on the field and the referees knew that when a player was tackled to get them out of the water real quick,” Miller said. “We felt the water wasn’t that deep and determined that it was safe for the kids.”

Walker said, “Yes, there was some apprehension, because you always worry about the safety of the kids, but at the same time, it was a football game where we wanted to finish what we started.”

Five minutes into the first quarter, the Prospectors (1-1) opened the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Gibson Limongello to Logan Dela cruz. But at 3:22 of the first quarter, Gus Willis intercepted a Limongello pass inside the Tempe 5-yard-line, leading to Omari Rogers’ 77-yard TD reception from Nathan Clayton. Mathew Farsworth’s PAT kick put the Buffaloes ahead to stay at 7-6.

With 1:45 left in the opening period, Javan Cooks picked off a Limongello pass at the AJ 30. On the opening play of the second quarter, Pharoah Williams scored from 1 yard out, putting Tempe up 14-6.

The turning point of the game occurred when the Buffaloes were driving deep in AJ territory. Gino Andrade intercepted a Clayton pass at the goal line, returning it 100 yards for an apparent Prospectors touchdown. A blind side block was called against Apache Junction, negating the play. AJ had the ball at its own 11, and one play later Limongello was sacked in the end zone for a safety with 4:03 to play in the half.

Tempe took a 16-6 lead into the extended halftime break.

“It was a clean block and we’ll see it on film,” Miller said. “It happened right in front of me, hands were out in front on the shoulder pad exactly how it’s supposed to be and they called it a blind side block. (The block) was 100 percent by textbook and that was a touchdown.

“That kills your momentum. We beat ourselves tonight.  (Tempe) was bigger than us, but I think we were the better team. But we missed more opportunities than we made.

“That was a big turnaround,” Walker said. “We had a route in the end zone where the ball ricocheted off one of our receiver’s hands into their hands, and the touchdown is called back. Then, we get the safety. Our defensive staff did a great job with the game plan and getting it to the kids. The defense saved the offense tonight.”

Coming out after halftime, Walker told his team not to look at the scoreboard.

“To us, it’s 0-0 and we’ve got to run the football,” Walker said. “We came in here wanting to run the football and that’s what we intended to do.”

Limongello, who was 5 of 14 passing for 49 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions, said, “I stopped throwing the ball and started running the ball a little bit more. I realized the ball weighed a little more and it’s hard for the receivers to catch. So I started running the ball a little more and started doing a little better with that.”

Apache Junction had its chances in the second half. After a Dela cruz punt was muffed and recovered by Josh Tunstill, the Prospectors had a first-and-goal at the Tempe 5 before a holding penalty moved the ball back to the Buffalo 22. When the Prospectors drove again inside the 10, Rogers intercepted a fourth-and-goal pass from Limongello at the goal line.

Later, the Prospectors drove to the Tempe 30, but the drive stalled on downs with 2:53 left in the fourth quarter. On the ensuing possession, Williams scampered 74 yards for a Buffaloes touchdown to close out the scoring.

“We weren’t disciplined in our own heads tonight,” Miller said. “That was the one thing I was afraid of coming off our good win last week.

“I thought our coaches called a great game and put us in positions to succeed. They just weren’t executed very well.”

Senior Bayyan Prince rushed for a game-high 107 yards to lead Tempe, which outgained the Prospectors on the ground 189 yards to 83.

William Lohman was AJ’s leading rusher with 86 yards on 17 carries. Dela cruz caught two passes for 18 yards.

Limongello said the loss was “a tough one to swallow,” adding, “We’ll come back and hopefully win against Canyon del Oro. We’re looking forward to it.”

NEXT: CANYON DEL ORO

On Friday, the Prospectors host Oro Valley Canyon del Oro. The Dorados (0-1) lost their opener 38-37 to Tucson Flowing Wells on Aug. 17. CDO’s game against Prescott, scheduled for Aug. 24, was cancelled.

“Canyon del Oro is always tough,” Miller said. “They’re always a contender. I’ve never beat them, it’s always been close, and always a battle up to the fourth quarter when they take the lead away from me!

“I told the kids ‘it’s time to hit reset.’ We didn’t hit reset well enough after our game against Royal. Right now, we’ve got that taste of losing and hopefully, the kids don’t want that again. The kids have to decide what kind of mindset they’ll have to determine if we win or lose.”

Photo above: The “Mini Prospectors” youth cheer team joins the AJHS varsity and junior varsity cheer team for photos and a few cheers prior to the football game between AJ and Tempe. (Photo by Daniel Dullum)

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