Patriots Defeat Chargers with “Strong” Defensive Effort

3 months ago Andrew Luberda 0

Twice during then-No. 2 ALA – Queen Creek’s 26 – 14 victory at then-No. 1 Benjamin Franklin last Friday night the Patriots’ defense stopped the Chargers on fourth-and-short, including once on the last of four-straight plays from the one-yard line in the second quarter.

But it was senior defensive back Ben Strong who might’ve made the biggest defensive play of the Patriots’ season to date.

With less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, and Benjamin Franklin threatening to score a possible game-winning touchdown, Strong intercepted a Chargers’ pass and returned it 87 yards for a pick-six to help keep ALA – Queen Creek unbeaten.

“The game was in the (balance),” ALA – Queen Creek head coach Rich Edwards said afterwards. “At that point, the game could go either way. They could score there; they’re a potent offense, especially in short yardage. To make that play, that was huge for us.”

The loss was the first of the season for the Chargers.

“Our kids did a great job of staying in the game,” Benjamin Franklin head coach Dave Jefferies told CountyLinePreps.com. “We’ve been in that position against Sabino and ALA – Gilbert North. I was so proud of them for coming back and getting themselves in a position to score and win.”

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Do-overs? – The Chargers can’t say they didn’t have their opportunities to see the game end with a different outcome – one in their favor.

Following a goal line stand by its defense, Benjamin Franklin’s offense started inside its own one-yard line and engineered a 64-yard drive that included a successful fake punt. The Chargers were eventually stopped on a fourth-and-one play to start the second quarter at the Patriots’ 35-yard line.

Later in the quarter, the Chargers had four plays inside the ALA one-yard line and came away empty with just over two minutes left in the half. The fourth-down play – after a timeout – was nearly intercepted in the endzone.

Finally, the play of the game, which was the third scoring opportunity squandered by the Chargers in the game.

“I second-guess a lot of what I did,” said Jefferies, shouldering some the blame for the missed chances. “I have to go back to the drawing board, figure some things out. I have to do a better job of preparing for games, a better job of preparing the kids for things.”

Feed him – Patriots’ sophomore running back Aziya Jamison entered the game averaging more than 120 rushing yards per game, yet he was nearly unnoticeable in the first half, short of a reception or two. On one series in the first half, Jamison was stopped short on a third-and-goal at the one. On fourth-and-one, the Patriots threw an incomplete pass.

Questionable call, in my opinion. Jamison is a player that current holds three D1 offers – BYU, ASU, and NAU – and is one the state’s leading rushers in 3A. I would’ve given him the ball on consecutive plays.

The Patriots’ staff made the adjustment at halftime and Jamison was what many see him as: a difference maker. He finished with 91 yards rushing on just eight carries to go along with three receptions for 49 yards.

“(Aziya had) some great runs,” Edwards said. “(On) some of those he got hit in the backfield, made great second effort, third effort on those. That really was the key.

“We had to come out (after halftime) and impose our will a little bit on them. We thought they might get a little tired but frankly, they didn’t get as tired as I thought they would.”

Duh! – The biggest moment that mattered is the most obvious.

The Chargers, trailing 19 – 7, pulled within five points following Zach Jefferies’ one-yard touchdown run with 4:49 left in the game. The Patriots fumbled the ensuing kickoff at their own 35-yard line. The Chargers, with the clock winding down to ensure the Patriots wouldn’t have a final possession, moved to the ALA 13 with 41 seconds left. On third-and-ten, Jefferies took a toss from Bowen, who turned receiver down the opposite sideline. The pass from Jefferies, intended for Bowen, was intercepted by Patriots senior Ben Strong, who sealed the victory for his team with an 87-yard pick-six.

Game over.

“We practiced that play against the scout team all week,” said Strong, who leads all 3A teams with seven picks and is second in state regardless of conference. “I saw the whole thing happen and made the play.”

THREE STARS ALA – QUEEN CREEK

No. 3 – Carter Taylor. Six receptions for 53 yards and two touchdowns.

No. 2 – Rand Jensen. 12-of-18 for 179 yards and three touchdowns, 138.7 QBR, and 47 rushing yards.

No. 1 – Ben Strong. Dramatic 87-yard pick-six with 41 seconds left.

THREE STARS BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

No. 3 – Zach Jefferies. 80 total yards and a touchdown.

No. 2 – Chancin Loving. 31 rushing rushing yards, five tackles, including one TFL.

Danner Bowen (12). (Caitlyn Craig, @caitlynnrosse)

No. 1 – Danner Bowen. 7-of-9 passing, 198 all-purpose yards (140 rushing), 217 total yards, a rushing touchdown, and nine tackles.

HE SAID IT

“That’s a good team over there. I think we’ll see them (in the playoffs). I hope it’s not too early again. They showed a lot of fortitude. We just made a play or two more at the end.” – Edwards, speaking about the Chargers.

UP NEXT

ALA – Queen Creek – Friday, Oct. 25 at Florence, which defeated San Tan foothills last week, 32 – 27.

Benjamin Franklin – Friday, Oct. 25 vs. ALA – Ironwood on Senior Night. The Warriors were defeated by No. 4 Coolidge last week, 55 – 15.

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