The Apache Junction Prospectors (6-3) played at home vs. the Benjamin Franklin Chargers (1-8) on Senior Night. The regular season came to a close for both teams on Thursday, Nov. 10.
Coach Bruce Binkley had nothing but respect for Benjamin Franklin when asked if he prepared any differently for a team that was playing below .500.
“We prepare the same,” said Coach Binkley. “They’ve had a hard schedule. They’re young. But they’ve played tough teams like we (Apache Junction) have, and they’ve hung in there.”
So, with Prospectors’ mindset not altered, they received the ball from Benjamin Franklin off an unsuccessful onside kick at 7:03 p.m. on a cool Apache Junction night. On the second play of scrimmage, star Running Back Isaiah Savoie took an inside run 57 yards to the house creating an early lead for Apache Junction.
Benjamin Franklin’s drive started like every other, with a couple of runs for short gains. However, a few plays later the Chargers utilized a version of the “T-Formation,” a two-tight-end set where the quarterback, running back and two receivers lined up next to the quarterback. The Chargers utilized this exotic formation with great use for the remainder of the game. After a methodical drive, they were able to run the ball up the middle for 2 yards and a touchdown to tie the game.
Savoie seemed unphased by the Chargers’ dominant offense as he took the ball and found a wide-open hole created by the offensive line, and sprinted for a 31-yard touchdown near the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter started out with great defense. The Prospectors’ defense held strong on the next drive as they stopped Benjamin Franklin on a fourth-down run. The Chargers’ defense also held fast as they forced the Prospectors to punt with a little over five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The Chargers tried to capitalize on their defensive stop as they moved closer to the Prospector’s goal line. As on the two-yard line, a pitch up the middle was an almost guaranteed score. But Cornerback Elijah Edwards went into the pile and knocked the football free, while Dane Fidler of the Prospectors was able to recover.
Forced into the two-minute drill, everyone assumed Quarterback Gavin Limongello would have to lead the team downfield. But coach Bruce Binkley had other ideas as he called an inside run to their playmaker, Savoie, who bounced an inside run down the left sideline and juked out an opposing defender for an 80-yard touchdown with only 43 seconds left.
The Prospectors almost had another score before the half, as Linebacker Maejor Cheadle intercepted a pass from Chargers’ Quarterback Ridge Allen. Unfortunately, the play was called back due to a roughing of the passer penalty, and the first half expired.
After a halftime performance, the second half began. The Prospectors originally believed they had a great defensive stop to force a punt. However, a fake was called for Drew Salisbury as he received a pass and got just enough for a first down. The remaining Chargers’ drive lasted for almost the entirety of the third quarter. Three fourth-down conversions eventually led to a touchdown on a two-yard toss play for Dawson Smith with only 49 seconds remaining.
The Prospectors took the ball as the third quarter ended and were faced with a tough fourth and eight situation. Luckily for the Prospectors, Limongello was able to find star receiver Garrett Garcia for a first down. Garcia remained effective this drive as on the next play was able to juke out multiple defenders after receiving the ball for another first down.
It seemed like Garcia made a phenomenal catch in the endzone;. However, he landed hard on his back and the ball came loose. He was injured on the play and did not return. Garcia was able to get up and walk to the sideline on his own power and was seen running on the sideline later in the game.
Motivated to win the game for his teammate, Savoie got the ball in the red zone and sprinted for a touchdown thanks to some phenomenal blocking from the offensive line.
With nine and a half minutes remaining and down by two scores, the Chargers needed to score with haste. And that, they were able to do. As Carlos Madrid took a pitch 35 yards for a touchdown with five and a half minutes remaining.
Apache Junction was able to recover the attempted onside kick, but thanks to a sack from Linebacker Mason Grant on third down the Prospectors were forced to punt. With 42 left to go, the Chargers needed a miracle. Some great defensive plays by Cheadle, and Tayvon Franko, and a touchdown-saving pass breakup by Edwards set up the final play of the game. The Chargers called a screen pass, and while it looked good from the start, the Prospectors were able to put an end to the last-second play from the Chargers.
Apache Junction won, 28-21, and is now 7-3 overall.
Bruce Binkley was asked about how he adjusted to the peculiar Benjamin Franklin offensive formation after the game.
“I did not expect it,” said Coach Binkley. “Our defensive staff did a great job. Our defensive coordinator did the right things, and we did good.”
And with that, the regular season comes to a close for both teams. Apache Junction looks to fight in the playoffs starting on Nov. 18th. While the Benjamin Franklin Chargers will more than likely watch their season end. The official playoff schedule will come out on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Editor’s note: Isaac Robertson is a high school intern who currently covers sports writing for Apache Junction Unified School District. He is a senior at Mesa Virtual Campus, is to graduate this December, and plans to attend ASU with a major in sports journalism.