The Shadow Ridge Stallions kept their playoff hopes alive, defeating Mountain Ridge 18-13 on Nov. 13.
Defensive tenacity won the game for the Stallions. With under two minutes left, Mountain Lions sophomore quarterback Brendan Anderson rushed for two yards to make it fourth and one.
Knowing the offense was likely to rush in search of a first down, the Stallion defense tackled Anderson again on a close play. The officials called on the chain crew to measure, as the home and visiting crowds waited with bated breath. Anderson was a fraction of a yard short, and the Shadow Ridge sideline erupted with cheers, knowing they had just sealed the game and a 5-2 record.
The Stallions mobbed the end zone when the final buzzer sounded, and Mountain Ridge (3-4) headed to the other with their heads hanging.
“The defense just played lights out in the second half,” Shadow Ridge coach Sean Hegarty said. “I’m excited for the opportunity next week to send our seniors out, hopefully with a win, and take our chances in the playoffs.”
Saturday morning those 6A playoff hopes took another step closer to reality. Shadow Ridge moved from #15 to #12 in the 6A rankings thanks to this win, and a big win by the Chandler Basha (5-2) against previously undefeated Mesa Mountain View.
Shadow Ridge knocked off Basha 41-31 in the season opener. With the AIA selection committe virtually certain to pick at leastfour 6A teams for the open division, the teams ranked #5-#12 are basically assured of a spot in the 6A playoffs.
The Stallions and Mountain Lions both got off to hot starts Friday, each scoring on their first possession. For the Stallions, junior Seth Gallardo threw a 61-yard pass to senior Zachary Sutton for the first of three touchdowns scored by Sutton, who accounted for all 18 Shadow Ridge points.
“We needed to win this game,” Sutton said. “I couldn’t have done it without the [offensive] line, without my quarterback throwing the ball, my other receivers getting me open. I don’t wanna take credit for it, it’s all them,”
In addition to the touchdowns, Sutton also recorded an interception.
“Just a heck of an effort,” Hegarty said. “The last one he caught in the end zone was not the way it was drawn up, but he found a hole and the quarterback did a good job of getting him the ball.”
As for the Mountain Lions, sophomore wide receiver Deric English made a leaping catch to put his team on the scoreboard early. Both sides missed their extra points in the first quarter, an indicator of how the game would play out.
In typical Friday the 13th fashion, what could go wrong, did go wrong. From the second quarter on, it was a series of mistakes and failing to score on both sides.
The Mountain Lions were cited for 15 penalties throughout the game. After a series of misplays during the third quarter English yelled, “Everybody wake up!” evidently frustrated with himself and the team.
Sophomore Jacob Kelley fumbled the ball near the end zone where the Stallions recovered it, and Anderson threw two interceptions. On multiple occasions the Mountain Lions turned the ball over on downs.
“A breakdown here, a breakdown there. Those things just stop drives” Mountain Ridge coach Doug Madoski said. “We’ve gotta be more consistent and finish.”
The Stallions were not without fault either. On the verge of scoring a touchdown during the second quarter, they were called for holding and an ensuing unsportsmanlike conduct which sent them back 15 yards.
In the fourth quarter, Shadow Ridge had the ball at the one-yard line and was looking to put the game out of reach when Gallardo fumbled and the Mountain Lions took it the other way.
“We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot, I think we had a penalty on almost every drive,” Hegarty said.
Shadow Ridge’s defense was able to hold on tight for the win anyway, sending Mountain Ridge home with a 3-4 record. The Mountain Lions will look to even it up at .500 with a win over Sandra Day O’Connor next week.
“These kids have fought through and they’ve handled the adversity as best as we possibly could,” Madoski said following the loss. “We’re young though, and we’ve got guys out there growing and developing right now and I think the future for Mountain Ridge is bright.”
The excitement of making the playoffs for the first time since 2013 (when the Stallions were in the equivalent of 4A) was palpable as seniors took group photos following their last home game. The atmosphere got so loose at one point senior running back Jacob Thurman (who missed the game) hit Hegarty with a shot to the groin, which he took in stride as the two shared a laugh.
It was a great night for every Stallion and fan involved. Now Shadow Ridge faces Surprise rival Valley Vista (2-5) with the playoffs likely on the line.
“It was our last home game as seniors, so it really meant a lot to us to win on this field one last time,” Sutton said.