Offense, Stadium Lights Lose Power in Patriots’ Win

3 weeks ago Andrew Luberda 0

For the first 24 minutes of its Friday, Sept. 13, Homecoming game versus visiting Phoenix Christian, ALA-Queen Creek’s high-powered offense looked as explosive as it did in its first three games, when it averaged 56 points per game. The last 24 minutes were littered with mistakes that reduced the explosiveness to a fizzle, as the Patriots were shutout but still earned their fourth-straight victory, 35 – 21.  

Rand Jensen (5) runs to avoid a Phoenix Christian defender. (Andy Silvas, @PhotoSilvas)

“We weren’t executing as well as we wanted to,” Patriots’ senior quarterback Rand Jensen said afterwards about his team’s scoreless second half. “We had some penalties that messed us up a little bit and we had some touchdowns called back, but it’s a team win, and we’re excited about it going into (the game against Yuma Catholic).”

ALA scored on all five of its first-half possessions to take a 35 – 14 lead to the locker room at halftime. 

Then came a couple of power outages. 

The first interrupted the halftime ceremony after a rascal tripped the circuit breaker, turning out the stadium lights for nearly 20 minutes and extending an already-scheduled longer than usual halftime.

The second was the Patriots’ offense, at least when it came to putting points on the scoreboard. To be fair, ALA-QC did have a total of four touchdowns in the game nullified by penalties, including two in the second half. 

“I think the kids got a little tired,” ALA-QC offensive coordinator Max Hall said. “We had two touchdowns called back and two dropped balls, so that’s 28 points that we should’ve put up in the second half.”

Whatever the cause, the results weren’t there after halftime.

The Patriots did cause some of their own problems, but give credit to Phoenix Christian, which figures to be a contender for the 2A state title.

“They’re a really great team, for sure,” said Jensen, adding that the Cougars may have been the Patriots’ toughest challenge to that point of the season. “They’re going to do well in 2A.”

And there’s little doubt that the Patriots will also do well in 3A.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Five for FiveThe Patriots scored on all five of their first half possessions, made more impressive by the fact they didn’t take their first offensive snap until after Phoenix Christian’s seven-minute-plus opening drive of the game.

Rand Jensen, who finished 17-of-24 for 303 yards, threw three touchdowns, including a 32-yarder to senior Carter Taylor and one to favorite target, and best friend, Ethen Cluff from 15 yards out.

Ethen Cluff (10) and Jensen celebrate a TD. (Caitlyn Craig, @caitlynnrosse)

“We have a chemistry that no one else has,” said Cluff, who had a team-high six receptions in the game. “I can say that about anyone in the state. We’ve been playing football together since we were six years old. It’s just there, no matter what. Most of the time, it’s like a magnet – when he throws it, the ball goes right into my hands. We have a great connection.”

Sophomore running back Aziya Jamison, who rushed 16 times for 97 yards and caught four passes for 125 yards, added a pair of rushing touchdown runs and was on the receiving end of a Jensen 40-yard scoring toss.

O-fer – Not to belabor the point, but after scoring 35 points in the first half, the Pats went scoreless in the second half due, in part, to their own mistakes.  

“The coaching point to the kids is:  We must be disciplined, no penalties, and we have to make plays when we have the opportunity,” Hall said. “Then it would’ve been the game that we wanted.”

That’s true, but Phoenix Christian deserves some credit for shutting out the Pats. That view was shared by several ALA-QC coaches and players afterwards. The Cougars presented a challenge that the Patriots can use to their benefit against future opponents.

“They were probably the most physical team,” answered Hall, when asked if Phoenix Christian was the toughest opponent, so far, for ALA-QC. “They try to wear you down. You saw in the first half they were trying to run the clock. Luckily, we scored early and got a lead.

“When we play against teams the like of Benjamin Franklin, we have to be tough up front, be able to stop them, and then capitalize offensively when we get the opportunities.”

He’s a Man-Man, He’s a “Beast” – Cougars running back Man-Man Freeman lived up to the hype and then some. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior rushed for a game-high 152 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown.

ALA-QC defensive coordinator James Verenski’s postgame analysis of Freeman was short, simple and spot on.

“(No. 24) is a beast,” he said. “He was a hard guy to bring down.”

Count me among those who are impressed by Freeman.

I don’t who wouldn’t be.

Turning Defense into Offense – The Patriots defense scored 14 points off a pair of fumble recoveries by Tyler Mlazgar and Carlton Guthrie.

Phoenix Christian showed a different offense than what ALA-QC prepared for.

“They came at us with something we didn’t prepare for,” Mlazgar said. “I like the way we responded to everything the threw at us.”

Verenski, who shouldered some blame for not better preparing his unit, came away satisfied.

“We wrapped up, and at times we did things great and at times we did things bad, but I think overall we came together when we needed to get the stops and the ball back to our offense.”

THREE STARS

No. 3 – Man-Man Freeman. 157 total yards – 152 rushing and five receiving – one touchdown. Team-high 9 tackles.

Aziya Jamison (22). (Andy Silvas, @PhotoSilvas)

No. 2 – Aziya Jamison. 222 total yards – 97 rushing and 125 receiving – two rushing TDs and one receiving.

No. 1 – Rand Jensen. 303 passing yards and three TDs. 12 rushing yards.

HE SAID IT

“Yuma Catholic has a good team…it’s going to be out to get us. It’s well-coached and it’s always a tough game every year.” – Hall

A LOOK BACK

Let’s look back at the Patriots’ last two games since the win on Sept. 13.

Coach Hall is good at many things but being prophetic is not one of them. ALA-QC scored 48 first-half points in a lopsided 69 – 7 win at Yuma Catholic on Sept. 20. Rand Jensen threw for 310 yards and six TDs in the game, including three to Ethen Cluff, who had a game-high eight receptions. Aziya Jamison rushed for 90 yards and a pair of TDs. The defense forced three turnovers and had four sacks – two by Micah Ferrin, and one each by Marcus Ferrin and Payton Henderson.

The Pats got off to a slow start at home on Sept. 27 against district rival ALA-Gilbert North as indicated by the 7 – 7 halftime score. But they responded by outscoring the Eagles in the second half, 28 – 3, on their way to a 35 – 10 win to remain undefeated. Jamison ran for 126 yards and three touchdowns. Cluff and Carter Taylor caught a touchdown each. Senior Logan Call and junior Micah Ferrin led the defense with 12 and 13 tackles, respectively. Ferrin (3) and Call (1) combined for the Pats’ four sacks in the game. Senior Ben Strong added a pick.

UP NEXT

ALA-Queen Creek gets a bye before hosting region foe San Tan Foothills on Oct. 11. Kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“If we play like we did in the first half, nobody can hang with us,” Hall said.