PEORIA — The Sunrise Mountain Mustangs successfully began defense of their football state title Friday night by using their potent aerial attack and taking advantage of five turnovers to spark a 30-20 victory over the Campo Verde Coyotes in a Class 5A playoff opening round game at Mustangs Field.
Sunrise Mountain quarterback Hunter Kronengold threw for 319 yards on the night with three first-half touchdown passes of more than 50 yards, including a 96-yard TD bomb, and the Mustangs’ defense shut out the Coyotes in the second half to advance to the 5A quarterfinals next week.
“We were going to take what they gave us but the deep routes were there for sure,” Kronengold said after the win. “We kept going back to it.”
Sunrise Mountain Head Coach Steve Decker agreed.
“We always have that weapon — the deep threat,” he said. “It worked well tonight. But Campo had one of the toughest schedules in the state so we knew this would be a tough game.”
Early on, it was the 12th-seeded Coyotes looking confident and moving the ball efficiently down the field for the game’s opening score against the 5th-seeded Mustangs.
Campo Verde converted a fourth down along the way before quarterback Reilly Garcia tossed a looping ball to Brett Cornell who had gotten past the Sunrise secondary for a 23-yard TD.
The PAT by Jase Hudson finished off a 9-play drive and Campo Verde led 7-0 at the 9:01 mark of the first quarter.
The Mustangs couldn’t immediately answer but they caught a huge break when Garcia fumbled on the Coyotes’ next series. Tristan Henss pounced on the ball at the Campo Verde 6 yard line.
One play later, Sunrise Mountain RB Rex Underhill — who rushed for more than 100 yards on the night — scampered in to bring the Mustangs within 1:
After a CV turnover, Sunrise RB @RexUnderhill33 rushes in from 6 yards. Easton Black PAT good.— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) November 20, 2021
#12 @cvhscoyoteclub 7
#5 @SMHSFootballFam 7
4:20 - 1sr Quarter
5A Playoffs Opening Round @AZPreps365 @AzNewsmedia #WestValleyPreps pic.twitter.com/YlriyXttYP
Easton Black nailed the PAT to make it 7-7 with 4:20 left in the first quarter.
The Coyotes returned the ensuing kickoff into Sunrise territory but the turnover bug bit them again as they entered the red zone. Running back Connor Calloway coughed up the ball inside the 5 and the Mustangs’ Andrew Ochoa recovered.
Underhill ran for a yard on first down at the 3, setting up the biggest play of the game.
Kronengold took the snap and unleashed a missile down the right sideline. Sunrise’s speedy receiver Micah Johnson had beaten his man and snagged the ball around the midfield — no one came near him on a perfectly-executed 96-yard touchdown strike.
“I didn’t think Coach would call that but when he did, I got excited,” Johnson admitted. “My playoff mode was on tonight.”
Kronengold was all smiles discussing the long hookup.
“The 96-yarder was my favorite — the longest TD I’ve ever had,” the quarterback noted.
Decker’s team was enjoying the moment.
“Football is supposed to be fun,” the head coach said. “That was cool to see that play work.”
Black tallied the PAT to make it 14-7 Mustangs late in the first.
Boston Williamson caught a long pass to key Campo Verde’s next drive, but the march stalled and the Coyotes settled for a 39-yard FG from Hudson:
Hudson nails a 39-yard field goal to bring the Coyotes within 4 .— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) November 20, 2021
#12 @cvhscoyoteclub 10
#5 @SMHSFootballFam 14
:49 - 1sr Quarter
5A Playoffs Opening Round @AZPreps365 @AzNewsmedia #WestValleyPreps pic.twitter.com/5aGjbXC9QP
Campo Verde trailed 14-10 at the :49 mark of the first.
But Sunrise was not done scoring in the opening stanza — just two plays later, Kronengold connected with Johnson again on a 63-yard TD pass. The PAT was blocked but Sunrise still led 20-10 after a high-scoring first quarter.
The Coyotes looked to get closer but the Mustangs’ D came up big again deep in their own territory. This time, Ochoa nabbed an interception in the end zone off a tipped ball to keep Sunrise up by 10:
Sunrise LB Andrew Ochoa makes an INT on the tip drill in the end zone. Three first-half turnovers for Campo Verde. pic.twitter.com/hgfpz4ZYPC— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) November 20, 2021
Campo Verde finally caught a break later in the quarter.
A perfectly placed punt backed up the Mustangs inside their 5 yard line. A fumbled snap on third down saw the Coyotes’ Clayton Hughes pounce on the loose ball for a defensive TD. Hudson added the PAT to bring CV within 20-17 with 4:02 left until halftime.
Kronengold was feeling it and it took just five plays until the senior signal caller found freshman WR Elijah Mendez for a 53-yard TD strike. Mendez found himself wide open down the field and easily darted into the end zone for the score. Black hit the PAT and the Mustangs led 27-17 with 2:02 before the break.
Campo Verde made some clutch plays late in the second quarter, leading to a Hudson 28-yard field goal to cap a wild first half that saw Sunrise Mountain leading 27-20:
The Mustangs extended their lead back to 10 on the initial drive of the third quarter as Black connected on a 27-yard field goal:
Mustangs back up 10 after a 27-yard FG by @easton_black.— Matt Loeschman (@MattLoeschman) November 20, 2021
#12 @cvhscoyoteclub 20
#5 @SMHSFootballFam 30
8:00 - 3rd Quarter
5A Playoffs Opening Round @AZPreps365 @AzNewsmedia #WestValleyPreps pic.twitter.com/2xoY2W3W3k
A Campo Verde INT was then canceled out by another lost fumble by Calloway.
Sunrise’s defense had made some slight tweaks and was settling in. Underhill was running the ball effectively and Sunrise Mountain was controlling the clock, allowing CV just four second-half possessions.
Needing one more stop to ice the playoff win, the Mustangs got it when Cornell lost a fumble after catching a pass over the middle with under a minute to go. The five total turnovers were too much for Campo Verde to overcome.
When the dust settled, Sunrise Mountain had shut out the Coyotes in the second half after allowing the visitors 20 first-half points.
“We made a few adjustments on D that worked out well,” Decker explained.
The victory propels Sunrise Mountain (7-4) into the 5A quarterfinals where they will travel to face fourth-seeded Desert Mountain on Friday, Nov. 26. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Desert Mountain (10-1) beat Ironwood Ridge 17-7 in round one on Friday night.
The Coyotes’ season concluded with a 4-7 overall record.
Sunrise Mountain may have four setbacks on their ledger, but the Mustangs are certainly battle tested — their four losses are to Cactus (Open 4 seed), Liberty (Open 6 seed), Horizon (5A 1 seed) and Desert Edge (5A 3 seed).
“We like where we are at,” Decker said. “Desert Mountain will be tough but we’re just going to take it one game at a time.”
Both Johnson and Kronengold are embracing the next challenge.
“We’re going to put in the work at practice and see where it takes us,” Johnson said.
The Sunrise QB has close friends who will be on the other side of the ball next game.
“I’m excited because I have a few buddies who play for Desert Mountain so I’m really looking forward to it,” Kronengold said.
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