Rising Kellis football clinches winning record with shutout

Posted 10/30/21

For the third time in four weeks the fourth quarter of a Kellis football game featured a running clock in the fourth quarter.

The difference in 2021 is all three times the running clock was initiated by the Cougars

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Rising Kellis football clinches winning record with shutout


For the third time in four weeks the fourth quarter of a Kellis football game featured a running clock in the fourth quarter.

The difference in 2021 is all three times the running clock was initiated by the Cougars grabbing a lead of 42 point or more. In Ben Kullos' first year as coach, the ceiling for the program is rising by the week.

Kellis drubbed Avondale West Point (2-6, 2-2 Northwest Region) 42-0 at home Oct. 29. With that win the Cougars, 1-27 total in the last three seasons, clinched a winning record at 6-2 and are in the middle of the 5A playoff race.

"To say we're ahead of schedule is an understatment. It's all a testament to what these seniors have bought into. It's a group of kids that saw one game won at the varsity level in three years, and now they just went out and won six," Kullos said. "They're not satisfied. That's the craziest part. They're hungry for more. They're excited but no one is looking back until we get to where they want to go."

The Cougars rebuilt quickly on the foundation of their defense and ground game. They did not complete a pass against West Point and did not need to,

Senior running back/cornerback Ernest Brown was thrust into a featured role with junior Darrien Campbell unavailable. Brown finished with 23 carries for 140 yards and three touchdowns.

"Our coaches teach us well and keep us conditioned. It was easy to go out there and do what I had to do," Brown said. "The line was amazing, honestly. Heads up to my boys. I love those guys. Our offense runs through them."

He was not alone. Senior Isaac Matthews and sophomore Tytus Gomez shared duties as running quarterbacks and each attempted only one pass.  Senior Joseph Salazar came in for short yardage situations, converting a fourth down and scoring a two-yard touchdown.

All of them ran begind a pugnacious line that paved the way for 287 rushing yards on 49 carries.

"There's two people that deserve shout outs for that. One is Ernest. He's the toughest kid I've ever coached, I think. He's so gritty and he's an undervalued two-way player in this state. He makes plays on offense and defense and is on every special teams. The kid does it all," Kullos said. "And the offensive line took control of the game. They've bought into that identity as well. We looked at what we were doing offensively and said, 'What are we good at?' It's evolved from there and we've built packages about that."

Brown broke out early, with a 39-yard run on his second carry and an 18-yard touchdown on an outside zone run on his fourth.

Junior kicker/punter/cornerback Cory Wood nailed a 40-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.

A finger injury took Matthews out late in the half. Gomez, normally a receiver, stepped in and finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown run on a zone read. It was 16-0 after the extra point failed

Meanwhile the Cougars' defense allowed the Dragons inside its 40, but forced and recovered fumbles to end both drives. West Point neared the red zone late in the half, and senior linebacker Ben Madruga put a stop to that with an interception on the final play before the break.

"Everybody knows their job. The whole scheme kind of jives with everybody," Madruga said. "Football is a physical game from the first snap and if you're more physical than them, they'll give up. It's super special to get a shutout on a tough team."

The Dragons had one more drive in them but the Cougars again got the stop and took over at their own 9. Matthews had re-entered the game earlier in the third quarter but Gomez took the second series and cut through the Dragons defense for gains of 11, 13 and 19.

Salazar entered with the jumbo package and scored to make it 22-0. Matthews' two-point scramble was stopped.

Brown capped a back breaking drive with an 6-yard touchdown and Kellis led 28-0 with 8:43 remaining after another failed two-point run.

Then it was time for the Kellis defense to have some fun. West Point fumbled its next three offensive plays. The Dragons recovered the first but junior defensive back Steven Le fell on the second for a touchdown and 35-0 lead.

"Ben Madruga is more than what he does on the field. It's his leadership ability, too. He's kind of coaching guys on the field. And Steven Le in the secondary is all over the field. He's a ton of fun. Up front we've got a ton of guys. We've got a senior back in Damani Randon, who's fast off the edge," Kullos said.

Senior defensive tackle Jordan Fierros fell on fumble No. 3 at the Dragons' 15. Two plays later Brown capped the night with a five-yard touchdown run.

Madruga said he feels the energy from the whole campus toward football this year has made a huge difference.

"Now that we can make it to the playoffs it's hying us up and making us energized. We practice harder to try to go farther than we've ever gone," Brown said.

The Cougars' work is not done with the winning season, as their goals have grown as the wins came rolling in. Scottsdale Saguaro is the only 5A team currently seeded to get bumped up to the open division. 

If that holds teams ranked No. 2-17 would move up a spot and compete in the 5A playoffs. Kellis entered this game ranked No. 18 and the teams ranked No. 17 (Phoenix Central) and No. 19 (Phoenix Sunnyslope) lost on Oct. 29.

Standing in the way for Kellis (6-2, 3-1) are its two toughest region foes in Canyon View (5-3, 4-0) Nov. 5 and Willow Canyon (5-3, 3-1) Nov. 12.

"These coaches make me look so good. I have a great group of coaches and I'm so lucky to have them. The things people don't see is the administration in place here at Kellis is setting up not just football but other sports for success. We have their full support," Kullos said. "The players have never been in or even seen anyone in this position. With these other programs it's kind of ingrained that the season keeps going. They know we can't afford to lose these next two."


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