Calip’s Late INT Seals Queen Creek’s Berth in 6A Semis

2 weeks ago Andrew Luberda 0

Queen Creek senior defensive back Keshaun Calip’s interception with 30 secs left in last Friday night’s 6A quarterfinal playoff game against Highland stymied two potential outcomes while solidifying the most important one: A 27 – 24 Bulldogs victory.

With Highland already in position for a near-certain game-tying field goal, the Hawks were 13 yards away from a game-winning touchdown. On third-and-goal, Calip prevented both and, in the process, clinched No. 4 Queen Creek’s berth in this Friday night’s 6A semifinals versus No. 1 Red Mountain.

“I just read the quarterback and I saw him look my way and saw him throw the ball out,” Calip said about his game-changing play. “I went out and grabbed it.”

The Bulldogs were determined from the start to show the lopsided 38 – 3 defeat to the Hawks only three weeks earlier was a fluke, and they did, as evidenced by the 20-unanswered points in the game’s first 13 minutes. The early-game dominance was the result of all three phases playing well, including an interception by Cavan Riggs and recovered pooch kick on special teams. As a result, Highland managed only three offensive plays from scrimmage during the first quarter-plus of the game.

“The progress we’ve made from the last time we played them until now is huge,” said Queen Creek senior running back Jace Bond, who finished with a team-high 146 all-purpose yards in the win. “We came out today thinking, ‘this is our season, this is our field and they’re not coming in here [to beat us].’”

The Hawks didn’t roll over, instead they scored 16-unanswered points during the next 23 minutes to create some nervous tension on the Queen Creek sidelines and stands. But on a fourth-and-one play, Bulldogs’ junior Trey Reynolds busted through the line of scrimmage for a 45-yard touchdown run to ease the anxiety, even if it was just for a moment.

Trey Reynolds breaks free for a 45-yard TD run. (Pete Kaupe, @PGKaupe)

Highland completed a 58-yard touchdown drive and a two-point PAT to close within three points, 27 – 24, with 4:31 remaining. Then the Hawks forced a Bulldogs punt with 2:16 left, drove 77 yards to the three-yard line, and a play later later Calip ended one team’s season and extended the other’s – his own.

“Two of our best players – Trey with the touchdown run and Keshaun with the interception – came up big for us,” Queen Creek head coach Joe Germaine said afterwards. “We started super-fast and then we totally lost our momentum, they came back. We stayed with it, made plays when we had to, and we stayed tough. I just loved the grit and toughness that our team showed.”

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

It’s not over ‘til it’s over – Obviously, Calip’s pick was the play of the game. Heck, it was the play of the season, so far.

But there was another play – penalty, actually – that impacted the outcome. Following Daniel Wood’s run to the three-yard line to setup second-and-goal from there, the Hawks were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, resulting in second-and-goal at the 18. After a five-yard gain, Highland called a timeout before the third-and-thirteen play.

Many wouldn’t be blamed if Calip’s interception was the last of three potential outcomes on their minds only two plays earlier, but it’s not over…

“I loved our defense (Friday night),” Calip said. “Even though (Highland) drove the field [at the end of the game], we still executed and didn’t give up.”

Tough to beat the same team twice – It’s a cliché, but it’s true.

The losing team in the first matchup has the advantage the second time around, in my opinion, because it knows what adjustments it needs to make, especially when the talent level is equal on both teams.

The winning team? Why change anything, just go do it again, right? 

Easier said than done, as the Hawks experienced.

Growing pains to pleasures – By now most are familiar with the Bulldogs’ struggles during the month of October – one win, two losses, outscored 71 – 24 in those three games, and nine turnovers.

Since then, they’ve won three-straight games, averaged 40 points per game, and have turned the ball over just three times while notching seven takeaways.

“We’ve been a little bit battled tested this year and we’ve gone through some tough times, some adversity,” Germaine said. “I think tonight was an example of (how we’ve improved) and learned how to handle those kinds of situations.

THREE STARS

Keshaun Calip (3) feels the love from teammates & coaches. (Pete Kaupe, @PGKaupe)

No. 3 – Zane Lalama. 10 tackles in only second game back from severe knee injury suffered way back in August.

No. 2 – Trey Reynolds. 82 total yards, three rushing TDs, and 12 tackles.

No. 1 – Keshaun Calip. Game-winning INT, six tackles, two receptions for 40 yards, and 26 return yards.

HE SAID IT

“I want our kids to enjoy this and remember these situations. This is a game we can really draw on down the road. We need to take this in and remember what this feels like, knowing that we’ve been in games like this.” – Germaine.

UP NEXT

No. 4 Queen Creek will play top-seeded Red Mountain at Westwood High School on Friday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m.

The Mountain Lions upset the higher-seeded Bulldogs in the 6A Playoffs a year ago on a 65-yard touchdown pass in the final minute.

“We just have to focus really big these last few weeks,” Bond said. “We just have to want it more.”