Chargers Deal Bears First Loss, Remain Unbeaten in 3A Opener

4 months ago Andrew Luberda 0

A leg up in the 3A Central Region and a pair of unbeaten streaks were on the line when Benjamin Franklin visited Coolidge in the region opener for both teams on Friday, Sept. 20, and it was the Chargers who remained undefeated and atop the standings following a dominant 35 – 7 victory.

“Region games are the meat of the schedule,” Benjamin Franklin head coach Dave Jefferies said afterwards. “(Coolidge) was a good one tonight. I know the score said one thing, but that is a good football program.”

A sloppy start marked the opening minutes of the game, as evidenced by a Chargers’ fumble inside the Coolidge five-yard line, which was immediately followed by a Coolidge interception on the subsequent play. Then, after moving backwards on penalties, Chargers senior quarterback Danner Bowen connected with AJ Warby on a 39-yard touchdown pass.

The Chargers went on to score 21-unanswered points in the first half and outscored the Bears 14 – 7 in the second half. Warby finished with a pair of touchdown receptions and junior running back Chancin Loving rushed for touchdowns in addition to game-high 156 yards on 15 carries.

“Coolidge was 4 – 0 and we couldn’t take (them) lightly,” said Bowen, who made the interception on the Bears’ opening possession and later returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. “We came out and made some plays. We had some tough plays with the fumbles, but we just had to come back from them. We almost held them scoreless, but they (scored one). I was a big win for us; it’s good to be 5 – 0.”

Benjamin Franklin overcame its three turnovers – two fumbles and an interception – in the game to win in decisive fashion, which is not the usual outcome when a team loses the turnover battle.

“We’ve got some work to do,” Jefferies said about the three turnovers. “I wasn’t too thrilled about that. Those things happen, but the one that was pretty upsetting happened after we opened the game with a big, long run. We have to score in those instances.”

A flag nullified this Coolidge kickoff return for a touchdown. (Kelli Luberda, @CountyLineKel)

Coolidge made its fair share of mistakes in the game, including two kickoff returns nullified on penalties. After it’s opening drive, which lasted more than five minutes, ended with a missed field goal, the Bears did next to nothing the rest of the game. Their lone score came following a long kickoff return to set up senior quarterback Val Rodriguez’ five-yard scoring pass to senior receiver Michael Bosquez.

 “I just didn’t do a good job of coaching,” first-year Coolidge head coach Rodger Schenks said. “I’ve got to make some better calls and put us some better situations. I take 100-percent responsibility.”

Added Rodriguez: “That’s not the outcome we wanted,” the 5-foot-11 signal caller said. “Our running game did a great job; we just couldn’t finish drives.

“We can’t let this [game] determine our season. We have to build on this and focus on next week.”

A PENNY (OR LESS) FOR MY THOUGHTS

For Better or (for) Worse – Both teams can view the results and come away thinking the final score could’ve been better or worse on either side. I’ll itemize some points to support my claim:

  1. The teams combined for five first-half turnovers.
  2. The Chargers scored 14 points off Coolidge turnovers, while the Bears scored zero off Benjamin Franklin turnovers.
  3. The Bears had a pair of kickoff returns called back on penalties, and other than the opening drive, when they drove nearly the length of the field (and missed a field goal), they couldn’t solve the Chargers’ defense. The Bears passed for only 60 yards. “Defensively, we did a really good job,” Jefferies said.
  4. As stated above, the Bears had a pair of kickoff returns called back on penalties, the last one set up their lone score. “Anybody that watches that film is going to pick on our kickoff,” Jefferies said. “We have to fix that, obviously.”
  5. Coolidge rushed for 178 yards – a good total – but came up empty on the scoreboard. “The line gave us good alleys to run and cut back,” said Coolidge junior running back Greg Rodriguez. “I have to give our line all the credit.”

Same As it Ever Was – If you haven’t at least heard of, if not seen, the Chargers’ unusual double-wing offense (compared to the more modern spread and RPO offenses), then you might not know it’s production against Coolidge is the norm – lots of rushing yards and just enough passing success to keep the opponent honest and off  guard.

Benjamin Franklin rushed for 332 total yards, including 209 combined from Loving and Warby. The latter added a game-high 101 receiving yards.

“They’re just beasts,” said Bowen, who finished with 186 all-purpose yards in addition to 101 passing yards. “(Coolidge) had some good pushes, but we just kept pounding it up the middle and is was working.”

Work to do – Ultimately, both teams made more mistakes than it wanted to, but the Chargers overcame theirs while the Bears didn’t.

“We get back to basics,” Schenks answered when asked how his team can correct the mistakes that led to its first loss. “Come back to practice and teach fundamentals. We take it as a learning experience and help the kids become better players.”

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN THREE STARS

No. 3 – Chancin Loving. 156 rush yards on 15 carries, 2 TD and four tackles.

No. 2 – AJ Warby. 154 all-purpose yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

No. 1 – Danner Bowen. 204 total yards, 80-yd kickoff return, TD and 2 INT.

COOLIDGE THREE STARS

No. 3 – Malachi Rodriguez. 10 tackles.

No. 2 – Greg Rodriguez. 8 tackles, 1 TFL, 35 rush yards.

No. 1 – Michael Bosquez. 1 TD, 9 tackles.

HE SAID IT

“We just have to do it one game at a time. I know it’s cliché to say that but it’s true.” – Jefferies, when asked how his team can keep its winning streak going.

A LOOK BACK

Chargers’ quarterback had three interceptions and a pair of touchdowns, including the game-winner in OT as Benjamin Franklin earned a critical come-from-behind victory against state title contender Sabino on Sept. 27.

Check out the highlights and interviews from that game on the Sideline Vlog below.

Following its bye week, BF cruised to a 41 – 6 win at region foe Florence on Oct. 11. Senior running back Zach Jefferies rushed for a game-high 109 yards and finished with three touchdowns – two rushing and another receiving. AJ Warby added a pair of touchdowns – one rushing and one receiving. Junior Noah Badger starred on defense with 10 tackles, including three TFL and a sack. Matthew McKnight had a pair of interceptions, returning one for a pick-six to go along with four tackles. Cade Macafee finished with a team-high 12 tackles.

The Bears have won three-straight games in convincing fashion against Catalina (53 – 0), Florence (34 – 21) and ALA – Ironwood (55-15) to improve to 7 – 1. Against Catalina on Sept. 27, quarterback Val Rodriguez completed 11-of-11 passes for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Comar Jefferies and Greg Rodriguez each rushed for 2 touchdowns and Tyler Tolley caught two touchdowns. Malachi Rodriguez returned a fumble for a touchdown on defense.

UP NEXT

Coolidge – Friday, Oct. 18, versus San Tan Foothills.

Benjamin Franklin – Friday, Oct. 18, versus ALA – Queen Creek.

Kickoff for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m.