Turnovers Halt Combs on Homecoming

11 months ago Special to County Line Preps - Skylar Johnson 0

Defending 2016 Black Canyon Region Champion Dysart made the trip to San Tan Valley to battle the Combs last Friday night. The Demons took advantage of four interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, to spoil the Coyotes’ Homecoming and leaving with a 40 – 20 victory.

Last year, in the first-ever ever meeting between the schools, the Demons easily took down the Coyotes, 46 – 8. Both teams entered Friday’s game looking to put themselves on top of the region standings.

Things were looking up going into region play for Combs. Adding new players and one returning player, who had to sit the first half of the season due to the new AIA transfer rules.

Joining the Coyotes on the field were last year’s leading rusher Jordan Lee, defensive back Cameron Thomas, and after adding instant contributors in transfer running back Cody White and transfer defensive back Damian Dunn the week before, the Coyotes were finally at full strength.
Trouble hit Combs in the first half with some in-game injuries.

“We lost a lot of key players in the first half,” Combs head coach Travis Miller said after the game. “That really hurt us early.”

Notable players out with injuries were starters Aaron Henry, Jordan Reaser, Adam Berthalot, Simon Taunima, and leading receiver and Sports360AZ Bucket List player, Nick Howland.

The Coyotes struck first in the opening quarter with a 50-yard pick-six by junior defensive back Damian Dunn. In a display of ridiculous athleticism, Dunn intercepted the pass, reversed field, and took it into the endzone.

“It felt amazing to score my first varsity touchdown,” the Poston Butte transfer told CountyLinePreps.com. “It felt good to get homecoming started with a lot of momentum.”

Dysart got the ball back in the first quarter and quickly drove down the field for its first touchdown, a rushing touchdown by running back Marcus Branda.

Proving to be a problem for the Coyotes, the senior took his fifteen carries for 145 yards against the Coyote defense and tallied two touchdowns on the ground.

After a Coyote punt, its defense, under direction of new defensive coordinator Sylvester Walker, responded quickly to the Dysart pressure. Recovering a fumble in great field position, giving their offense the momentum the they needed to score. With time running out in the first half, running back Jordan Lee ran it in for the Coyotes second score of the game, which was his first of the season. The Coyotes the lead at half, 14 – 7.

Combs received the kickoff to open the second half, but the Dysart defense flexed its muscles early, capitalizing on a fumble by Cameron Stewart and taking it back for a defensive touchdown on Combs’ first turnover of the game. The defensive touchdown tied the game 14 – 14 in the third.

After another Combs’ punt, the Demons put together their second touchdown drive of the day, capped off by Marcus Branda’s second score on the ground, allowing Dysart to take the lead for the first time in the third quarter, 21 – 14.

The Yotes got the ball back after the score but not for long. In a quick turn of events, Dysart picked off sophomore quarterback Trey Buck for the first time of the night, taking the interception back for a touchdown. After a blocked extra point, Dysart led 27 – 14, heading into the final quarter.

Things continued to get worse for the Coyotes in the fourth quarter. The Demons intercepted Buck for the second and third time, but failed to capitalize on the turnovers, punting it back to the Coyotes. After a good punt for the Demons, Combs took over, backed up in their own end zone.
On fourth and long, a costly special-teams error by the Yotes gave Dysart the ball in the red zone. Starting quarterback Kobe Ganados zipped a pass to Jordan Lopez for the Dysart touchdown, extending the Demons lead to 34 – 14.

Ganados ended the game 7-of-12 with 98 yards in the air and two touchdowns. He also contributed on the ground with 42 yards.
After the score, Combs’ offense returned to the field after back-to-back-to-back turnovers. A nifty twenty-yard run up the middle by junior Cody White landed Combs on the five-yard line. On the next play he ran for the touchdown.

The junior felt relieved afterwards.

“It was awesome scoring my first touchdown, but we need to focus on how to win as a team, it’s not about individuals,” White said.

Trailing 27 – 20 in the fourth with just over eight minutes left in the game, Dysart completed another touchdown pass. This one from Ganados to Raymond Cruz, for 30 yards up down the middle of the field. It was Cruz, only catch of the game.

Showing life late in the fourth, the Combs’ defense forced a turnover, giving their struggling offense one more drive. The positives were short lived though, as Dysart grabbed one last interception on the young quarterback Buck.

With the win, Dysart into a three-way tie with Combs and Coronado for second place in the Black Canyon Region, behind Apache Junction.

Clearly, interceptions are killing a young offense trying to find itself. The Yotes have thrown 10 interceptions through six games.

“Turnovers have been a problem for us all season,” Miller said. “We’re obviously not going to pass as much as we have been. Our offense will have to change.”

That new-style offense will debut when the Coyotes next play on Friday, Oct. 6, versus Cortez.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.