Poston Butte Special Teams’ Lapses Prove Costly

10 months ago Andrew Luberda 0

Poston Butte’s special teams allowed 10th-ranked Marana to return a pair of punts for touchdowns during Friday night’s Sonoran Region contest in San Tan Valley, which helped the Tigers defeat the Broncos on Senior Night, 49 – 28.

Jesus Valenzuela, a senior, returned back-to-back Broncos’ punts just over two minutes apart to increase the Tigers’ lead to 28 – 0 with 6:39 remaining in the first half. Valenzuela’s scoring plays were two of three touchdowns by the Tigers in a span of less than six minutes at the start of the second quarter.

“We had some breakdowns all over the field in the first half, defensively and special teams wise,” Poston Butte head coach Dain Thompson said after the game. “(Marana) did a good job. We lost contain and they have some good athletes.”

Marana, which entered the game averaging more than 46 points per game, opened the scoring on its second possession, when highly-touted junior quarterback Trenton Bourguet connected with senior wideout Teon Simmons for a 19-yard touchdown with 5:15 remaining in the first quarter.

Poston Butte quarterback Carter White (24) gets pushed out of bounds during Friday’s game.

The Broncos found moderate success running the ball but consistency was absent on their first few drives, which ended with punts.

Senior running back Zach Roberts increased the Tigers’ lead to 14 – 0 on the fourth play of the second quarter.

Poston Butte’s offense was repeatedly behind the chains in the first half, leaving the Broncos in several third-and-long situations that they couldn’t convert. They went three-and-out on consecutive possessions, both resulting in Valenzuela’s punt returns.

“Our guys try really hard, but we don’t have the bullets in the gun to get behind the sticks and still be successful,” Thompson said. “When we get in a groove, and don’t make silly, unforced errors, we’re tough to stop, offensively.”

That fact became evident as the game progressed.

After a Marana interception, Poston Butte’s Jett Johnson intercepted a Bourguet pass and the Broncos capitalized. Adjusting to more of a passing attack, senior quarterback Carter White completed passes to Angel Boykin and Tucker Usher, hitting the latter on a 43-yard touchdown pass and reception. Zack Piwniczka’s first of four PAT cut the Tigers’ lead to 28 – 7 with 3:46 left in the half.

Four Marana defenders attempt to bring down Poston Butte receiver Angel Boykin (34) after a reception.

Boykin and Usher each had three receptions and a touchdown, in addition to 34 and 86 receiving yards, respectively.

The teams traded touchdowns in the closing minutes of the first half, beginning with a rushing touchdown by Bourguet. Later, White’s 17-yard pass to Usher set up a one-yard scoring run by senior Larry Tripp. Piwniczka’s PAT ended the scoring with Marana holding a 35 – 14 lead at halftime.

Penalties left the Broncos behind the chains again on their first possession of the third quarter, setting up a short field for Marana after a punt. The Tigers took advantage when Bourguet completed a 43-yard pass to Diego Miranda, which setup a one-yard touchdown run by Rene Valenzuela, increasing the lead to 42 – 14.

The Broncos’ offense successfully moved the ball via the pass after finding the Marana defensive backs had difficulty preventing Usher, Boykin and Peter Tuccio from beating them, especially deep. A three-yard touchdown pass, on fourth-and-goal, from White to Boykin was the final play of the third quarter, which ended with Marana leading, 42 – 21.

“We came out slow in the first half,” said White, who completed 22-of-41 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. “In the second half, the guys were coming out of their breaks, catching the ball. We put some good drives together and almost came back.”

Munoz’ second interception of the game led to the Broncos’ final touchdown, a 33-yard pass from White to Peter Tuccio. Marana immediately answered with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Bourguet to Valenzuela to account for the final score.

The win gives Marana (6 – 2, 3 – 0) the upper hand in the battle for the region title. Poston Butte (4 – 4, 1 – 1), with two games remaining, must win both and hope for some help to secure a playoff berth.

“We can wallow in our mistakes, or we can embrace the idea that we have two great opponents coming up the next two weeks,” said Thompson, whose team plays both games on the road. “We’re going to take one at a time and play as hard as we possibly can.”

It’s not over until it’s over, according to the Broncos’ players.

“After this game, we have a lot confidence,” senior linebacker Tyler Thompson said. “We made some poor plays here-and-there, but we’re going into next week ready to go. I believe my guys.”

Up next:  Poston Butte at Cholla on Friday, Oct. 20. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.