Contributed Photo: Jeremiah Martinez and the Pima Roughriders escaped Scottsdale with a 23-20 victory. Tuddy Smart intercepts Scottsdale quarterback Jack Atkinson in the end zone on this play.
Martinez carries the Roughriders to the win
By Jon Johnson
SCOTTSDALE – When his team needed him the most, Jeremiah Martinez followed his blocks and burst through arm tackles on his way to a 32-yard TD in the fourth quarter to help lift the Pima Roughriders over the Scottsdale Christian Eagles 23-20 on Friday night.
Martinez finished with 187 rushing yards on 26 carries for an average of 7.2 yards per carry and the deciding TD.
The Pima Roughriders (2-0) will next host the red-hot and newly minted 3A Conference Morenci Wildcats (3-0) on Thursday, Sept. 7, starting at 7 p.m.
Pima scored on its opening possession to go up 7-0 after Tuddy Smart ran it in from the 4 on second and goal to break the ice early and a successful Jaxon John kick with 8:53 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles struck back on their opening drive when quarterback Jack Atkinson hit Andrew Tapp for the 36-yard TD score with 7:55 left in the first. However, Pima still led 7-6.
Early in the second, Scottsdale blocked Pima’s punt attempt and took over on the Roughriders’ 14-yard line with 10:09 left in the quarter.
The Eagles capitalized on the turnover one play later when Atkinson hit Andrew Trapp for the score again, this time for a 14-yard TD. Atkinson was good on a 2-point conversion pass and Scottsdale Christian took the lead, 14-7 over Pima with 10:03 left in the half. Atkinson finished the game 20-37 for 294 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs.
Pima methodically moved the ball downfield on its second drive – behind a healthy amount of Martinez runs – and had a 1st and goal from Scottsdale’s 4-yard line. However, a missed handoff ended with a loss on first down, followed by another play for no gain, and Pima suddenly faced 3rd and goal at the 7.
Scottsdale’s defense held, and facing a 4th and goal from the 9, Pima elected to try a 25-yard field goal attempt. The kick from Jaxon John’s leg was good, and Pima crept closer but Scottsdale still led, 14-10, and the Eagles would have the ball with another chance to score before the half.
On 2nd and 10 from Pima’s 26 with just 17.7 seconds left, Atkinson hit Harrison Gurash at the 20. The 6’2” junior then made two Roughriders miss as he raced into the end zone. The points were taken off the board, however, when Scottsdale was called for an illegal block in the back on 6’6” senior tight end Davin Rucker, who had locked up with Pima’s Dane DeRusha and continued to hit him as DeRusha ran past. DeRusha was still a good five yards from Gurash as he crossed the goal line when Rucker gave the illegal push costing his team the points and, ultimately, the game.
The penalty took the ball back out to the 15-yard line and cost 9.7 seconds of playtime. Scottsdale had an incompletion on the second down replay and the half ended with the Eagles up 14-10 when Atkinson was sacked on third down.
Scottsdale received the second-half kickoff and the Eagles took to the sky to move the ball downfield on a series of passes.
But when faced with a 4th and 2 from the Roughriders’ 4-yard line, Atkinson’s pass was intercepted by Tuddy Smart, who then took it out of the end zone and was tackled at the 3. There was a late-hit penalty on Scottsdale as well, which pushed the ball out to the 19 – pretty much where it would have been if he had kneeled in the end zone after the INT.
Pima gave the ball right back on the ensuing drive, however, when Scottsdale got an INT with the Roughriders facing a 3rd and 20 from their own 29.
The turnover gave Scottsdale’s offense the ball at Pima’s 25 but the Eagles couldn’t go anywhere with it and turned the ball over on downs. The third quarter t ended without either team scoring.
Pima QB Rhett Hughes didn’t have a lot of attempts on the night – he went 3-8 for 68 yards with 1 TD and 3 INTs – but the completions couldn’t have come at a bigger time.
With his team down in the fourth, Hughes connected on a screen pass to Tuddy Smart from the 40, and Smart did the rest, breaking tackles down the sideline to turn it into a 26-yard reception and a 1st and 10 from the Eagles’ 14.
And on 2nd and 7 from the 11, Hughes calmly stood in the pocket and waited for Jaxon John to cross in front before hitting him for the go-ahead score with 9:34 left in the game. The extra-point kick from John was good, and Pima now led 17-14.
After a bad snap pushed Scottsdale back into a 3rd and 25 from its own 34, Atkinson hit Andrew Trapp for a big gain to make it 4th and 4. The Scottsdale QB then hit Caeden Murphy, who swatted and danced to the 17 for a first down.
After converting a pass on 4th and 4, Scottsdale finished its drive with a 7-yard TD run by Jacob Trapp, who finished with 75 yards on 16 carries and one score. The 2-point attempt was no good, however, and Scottsdale led just 20-17 with 6:25 left in the game.
After multiple failed kickoff attempts, Scottsdale ended up kicking from its own 30, and Pima started its final drive near mid-field at its own 47.
The Roughriders went right to Martinez, who started the drive with a bolt up the middle for 13 yards into the Eagles’ territory to the 40.
However, Pima soon faced a 4th and 2 from the 32 with just more than 4 minutes left to play. Down 3, if Pima failed to convert the game could be over.
Coming to the line in a spread formation, Martinez gave Hughes a knowing tap, and with the game dependent on the outcome of this play, each member of the Pima offensive line was engaged with a man giving Martinez a lane to the second level. The fullback zipped through past the first down with the swiftness of a halfback, but he wasn’t finished.
Scottsdale Christian safety Caeden Murphy went in for the stop, but Martinez broke through his arm tackle and bounced one off by Gremlin Sia on his way 32 yards to the end zone and the go-ahead score. The extra-point attempt was no good, however, and now Pima led by just a field goal, 23-20, with 4:01 left in the game, and its defense would have to make one more stop.
With Scottsdale threatening, Sam Ray stepped in front of an Atkinson pass for the interception with 3:01 left in the game.
Pima took over on Scottsdale’s 35 with the intent of running out the rest of the clock but Scottsdale’s defense stepped up to give its offense one last shot. On 4th and 4 from the 29, Pima ran an option but Smart was struck down on the pitch for no gain and Scottsdale got the ball back with 1:53 left to play.
Atkinson fumbled the snap on its ensuing offensive play, however, and the Eagles had to burn their last timeout after the QB lost 17 yards recovering the ball at their own 17 with just 1:48 left to play.
Things looked bleak for Scottsdale, Atkinson couldn’t find anyone on consecutive plays – and then the refs called a controversial late-hit penalty as Atkinson scrambled along the right sideline and was tackled. The penalty gave new life to Scottsdale, and Atkinson connected on his next pass to move the Eagles into Roughriders’ territory.
Scottsdale looked primed to move into the Red Zone but Hayden Shinkle made an open-field tackle, stopping the Eagles’ advance and keeping the clock running. Pima’s bend but don’t break defense held, and Scottsdale ran out of time as the Roughriders left the field victorious, 23-20.
Pima will next host a re-match of last year’s 2A Championship game. Pima beat Morenci 50-19 in the state championship game after defeating the Wildcats in Morenci in the regular season, 21-20. This year, Morenci (3-0) is now in 3A and sits atop the 3A South with Sabino.
The Wildcats have wins over Round Valley and Benson and want to add Pima to their “revenge” list.