GLENDALE — With the Deer Valley Skyhawks on the verge of a monumental comeback, Lake Havasu’s Isaac Stopke said enough is enough.
The standout junior running back/linebacker made a game-clinching interception with under 20 seconds left to add to his three rushing touchdowns as the Lake Havasu Knights held on for a 28-26 victory over the Deer Valley Skyhawks on Friday night in a 4A Southwest Region nailbiter at DVHS.
“We talked at halftime about overcoming adversity,” said Deer Valley Head Coach Dan Friedman. “We fought hard to come back and that shows we are growing as a program. We were right there — we just didn’t execute in certain situations to get it done.”
Entering the game 16th in the AIA’s official Class 4A rankings, the Skyhawks were in desperate need of a quality win against the 12th-ranked Knights.
But Stopke was a one-man wrecking crew on both sides of the football, rushing for more than 100 yards and making the biggest defensive play of the night.
“He’s an incredible athlete — he never comes off the field,” Friedman said of Stopke. “Just a stud player and only a junior.”
Down 22 points early in the second half, turnover-plagued Deer Valley (5-2, 0-2) appeared to be done for the evening. But the Skyhawks suddenly flipped the switch, started believing in their ability to make a game of it and nearly pulled off a stunner.
After the Knights took a 28-6 lead on a Stopke 4-yard run, Deer Valley began to climb back into the game.
Big contributions on the ground from Ashton Hill and a big catch by Tanner Bobic took the ball inside the Knights’ 10. On 3rd and 8, Skyhawks quarterback Rudy Gonzales called his own number and dashed around the left side for a 9-yard score:
DV’s Gonzales takes matters into his own hands with a 9-yard TD scramble. Tanner Bobic PAT good.— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 23, 2021
#12 @LakeHavasu_HSFB 28
#16 @DV_Skyhawks 13
4:10 - 3rd Quarter
4A Southwest Region @AzNewsmedia #WestValleyPreps #AzPreps365 pic.twitter.com/lTegj2GNej
Bobic added the PAT to bring DVHS within 28-13 with 4:10 left in the third.
With a sizable homecoming crowd starting to feel momentum shift, the Skyhawks defense forced a three-and-out. A punt was fair caught and Deer Valley started at their own 32.
Friedman then rolled the dice and hit the jackpot.
Deer Valley called a double reverse and the ball was eventually flipped back to Gonzales, who heaved a 68-yard TD bomb to a wide-open Bobic down the middle of the field. With the home crowd roaring, Bobic also kicked the extra point to cut the deficit to 28-20 with 1:41 left in the third.
“We worked on that double reverse during the week,” Friedman explained. “I thought it was a great opportunity to run it there.”
Looking to seize even more momentum, the Skyhawks tried an onside kick but it was unsuccessful.
Six plays later, Lake Havasu (4-2, 2-0) faced 4th and 11 at the DV 40 yard line. The Knights got the ball into Stopke’s hands, but the Skyhawks defense swarmed him seven yards short of the line to gain.
Deer Valley now had an opportunity to possibly tie the game. Ty Thomas and Kaleb Noble caught passes from Gonzales and Lake Havasu was feeling the frustration, committing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to move the ball inside the 5 yard line.
Hill did the honors, darting in from 3 yards away:
Hill scores a 3-yard TD to get DVHS within 2. The potential tying 2-point conversion fails on an incompletion to Hill.— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 23, 2021
#12 @LakeHavasu_HSFB 28
#16 @DV_Skyhawks 26
9:20 - 4th Quarter
4A Southwest Region @AzNewsmedia #WestValleyPreps #AzPreps365 pic.twitter.com/656OHh6ryV
With 9:20 left in the game, Deer Valley needed the 2-point conversion to tie. Gonzales fired a laser to Hill on the right side but with multiple Knights defenders in the area, the running back couldn’t hold on and the Skyhawks trailed 28-26.
Deer Valley’s defense came up big again and got the ball back for the offense, but a failed fourth-down play ended the drive inside the Lake Havasu 35.
Friedman used his timeouts on defense and Deer Valley managed to get the ball back with under a minute left at their own 25. A crucial fourth-down completion to John West kept the game alive with under 30 seconds left. The Skyhawks faced second down at the Havasu 41 with 19 ticks left on the clock.
Gonzales rolled right and threw across his body but Stopke was “Johnny on the spot” to tip the ball to himself and secure the victory:
Deer Vakkey drives into Lake Havasu territory with :20 left but Stopke picks off Gonzales to end the threat. pic.twitter.com/0tZ92AS7Tx— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 23, 2021
“Rudy was just trying to make a play — we were basically out of time,” Friedman said.
The game began with Hill and Stopke each rushing for touchdowns in the first quarter — Hill from a yard out and Stopke from 14:
DV’s @AshtonHill02 scores on a 1 yard run on fourth down. PAT wide left. Havasu responds with a 14-yard TD run by Isaac Stopke. PAT good.— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 23, 2021
#12 @LakeHavasu_HSFB 7
#16 @DV_Skyhawks 6
2:06 - 1st Quarter
4A Southwest Region @AzNewsmedia #WestValleyPreps #AzPreps365 pic.twitter.com/0KMDf9enUm
DV missed a PAT and trailed 7-6 after one quarter.
The Lake Havasu defense came up huge early in the second stanza. With Deer Valley in the red zone, Gonzales was intercepted by the Knights’ Cody Pellaton who dashed 90 yards down the right sideline for a game-changing Pick 6:
On fourth and 10, Deer Valley QB Rudy Gonzales is picked off by Lake Havasu’s Cody Pellaton who takes it about 85 yards the other way. PAT good.— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) October 23, 2021
#12 @LakeHavasu_HSFB 14
#16 @DV_Skyhawks 6
11:37 - 2nd Quarter
4A Southwest Region @AzNewsmedia #WestValleyPreps #AzPreps365 pic.twitter.com/gOBPLUFdTG
Instead of possibly taking the lead, the Skyhawks found themselves trailing 14-6 with 11:37 to go before halftime.
“That was tough. You at least have to make them work for it,” lamented Friedman, whose team suffered another red-zone turnover late in the first half.
Stopke added another TD on the ground, a two-yarder, to give Lake Havasu a 21-6 halftime lead and set the stage for a wild second half.
Looking down the road to the postseason, undefeated Cactus is a virtual lock to ascend the Open Division bracket. Another 4A team could make the eight-team elite field meaning another two spots could open up in the 16-team 4A bracket.
Deer Valley cannot worry about that now as the Skyhawks have a short week to get ready for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Thursday, Oct. 28 at Youngker (2-5, 1-0).
“We have to forget this one quickly,” admitted Friedman, who said a postseason berth is about a 50/50 proposition at this point. “I wish we would’ve played better in the first half tonight but my hats off to our kids for battling to the end.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here