Photo By Stan Bonifacio: Brik Skousen and the Thatcher Eagles move onto the semifinals with a 21-7 victory over Trivium Prep.
Face Phoenix Christian in 2A Semifinals
By Jon Johnson
GOODYEAR – The No. 7 Thatcher Eagles overcame six turnovers by utilizing an overpowering defense coupled with a surprising air attack to move into the 2A State Semifinals with a 21-7 victory over the No. 2 Goodyear Trivium Prep on Friday night. It was Trivium’s first loss of the year.
Thatcher quarterback Mark Wren had a big night and finished with a perfect 5-5 for 137 yards and 2 TDs through the air and ran 8 times for 21 yards and 1 TD. Thatcher ended up with nearly 300 yards of total offense.
Despite four first-half turnovers, the Thatcher defense utterly stifled Trivium Prep’s offense and its main running back, David Marquez, to just 6 total yards of offense in the first half. Marquez fared better in the second half but still only finished with 68 yards on 28 carries with 1 TD. He was the only offense for Trivium, which finished with just 72 yards of total offense as quarterback Kade Gutierrez finished his night 5-10 for 37 yards and an INT, but had -20 yards on 9 rushes, mostly due to two big sacks by Collin Thompson.
After forcing a Trivium Prep punt, Thatcher’s ground game moved the ball down the field on its first possession into the red zone. However, the Eagles’ drive stalled there as they turned the ball over on downs.
Thatcher got on the board in its second possession as Mark Wren hooked up with Kyle O’Donnal for a short pass. O’Donnal then tiptoed his way down the right sideline for with about 40 yards-after-catch to score a 44-yard TD with just 1:43 left in the first quarter to put Thatcher up 7-0.
Thatcher’s defense forced Trivium to punt early in the second quarter, however, Trevan Gaylord fumbled after receiving the kick and the Knights were given a gift with a new possession of 1st-and-goal.
Trivium Prep capitalized on the turnover and Marquez scored a 3-yard TD to tied the game up at 7-7.
Early in the second quarter, Trivium recovered another Thatcher fumble and had the ball on the Eagles’ 25-yard line. The Thatcher defense stepped up, however, and Collin Thompson broke through with a 10-yard sack on 3rd down to force a 4th-and-16. Trivium elected to go for it instead of attempting a 40-yard field goal, and Nicholas Puzas made them pay with a big interception for the first turnover on the night for the Knights. Thompson finished the night with two sacks.
With the Knights clogging up the middle, the Eagles returned to the air and Wren found O’Donnal again, this time down the right sideline for a big 1st-down pickup to the Knights’ 38-yard line with just 1:42 left until halftime.
A few plays later, Wren then hit Slade Shupe on 3rd-and-3 for 11 yards and another 1st down to take the Eagles into the red zone. Wren then followed that up with another pass to O’Donnal to give the Eagles 1st-and-goal from the 6 with just 37.7 seconds left until halftime.
From there, Wren called his own number and scrambled in from the 6 to put the Eagles up 14-7 to head into the locker rooms at halftime.
Thatcher started the second half with its third fumble on special teams as Trivium Prep recovered a pooch kick.
Marquez followed that up with a 7-yard run, which was 1 yard less than the Knights had in the entire first half.
After picking up a 1st down, Marquez failed to handle a direct snap in a Wildcat formation and the Eagles recovered the fumble on their own 37-yard line. Trivium forced a 3-and-out, however, and got the ball back on the punt by Thatcher.
Trivium managed to get the ball back into Thatcher territory, however, the Knights fumbled the ball again late in the third quarter on a 4th-and-11 as the snap went over Gutierrez’s head and the Eagles took over on their own 45-yard line.
Early in the fourth quarter, it was the Wren to O’Donnal connection again for a 60-yard TD on a deep pass on 3rd-and-15. The extra point was good and the Eagles ended the Knights’ season, 21-7. The play gave O’Donnal four catches on the night for 126 yards and two TDs.
No. 7 Thatcher will face No. 3 Phoenix Christian on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Arcadia High School in Phoenix at 4703 E. Indian School Rd., starting at 6 p.m.
Phoenix Christian is led by Man Man Freeman at running back, and beat No. 6 St. Johns 27-20 in the quarterfinals.