Steve Carter File Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: The Thatcher Eagles are your 3A State Runners-Up.
By Jon Johnson
PHOENIX – They might be the best 3A team out there, but when the AIA allows 4A teams to play at the 3A level on technicalities, even great teams have trouble playing up to the next level. To wit, with an enrollment double that of Thatcher, the Eastmark Firebirds defeated the Thatcher Eagles for the 3A State Football Championship on Saturday night, 42-21, at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix. Eastmark is in the Queen Creek Unified School District and has only been open for three years, hence the placement in 3A even though the school has an enrollment of 1,311.
However, due to their recent success and the AIA’s formula of moving up and lowering teams, Thatcher may have to petition to not be moved up to 4A.
Credit the Thatcher Eagles on their incredible 13-1 season, as they are just in their third year at the 3A level after previously dominating 2A with three consecutive championships.
The Eagles were certainly no pushover, and after going down 7-21 at the half, the Eagles had a 79-yard, third-quarter opening drive capped by a Brandon Napier TD sneak to cut it to 14-21 to be right in the game.
However, Eastmark scored on three of its next four possessions to put the game out of reach. Unable to run on Thatcher’s defensive front, Eastmark found success in the air through quarterback Mack Molander and his favorite target Austin Johnston.