Thatcher survives Round Valley comeback 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Round Valley quarterback Ryker Marble takes off on a scramble. Thatcher held off a second-half Round Valley comeback to win, 22-20.

Field goal attempt goes just wide left

By Jon Johnson

THATCHER – Two feet to the right and there would be no joy in Thatcher. 

That was the approximate distance Round Valley’s game-winning 35-yard field goal attempt missed to the left as Thatcher escaped a furious Round Valley comeback to leave John Mickelson Field with the victory, 22-20 on Friday night.

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald: Steve Carter Cover Photo

“My heart can’t take much more of this,” said Thatcher head coach Dan Jones. “We need to get better. Our O-line blocking scheme just has to solidify. We gotta get more solid.”    

It doesn’t get any easier for the Eagles, who will next travel to face the unbeaten (3-0) 4A Yuma Catholic Shamrocks on Friday, Sept. 15, starting at 7 p.m. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Christian Carter attempts to run past a defender.

The Eagles were dominant in the first half, especially on the defensive side of the ball – forcing Round Valley’s offense to punch three times and turn the ball over on downs on their fourth offensive possession. 

The Elks got on the board first, however, when Ryker Marble intercepted a deflected Brett Jones pass and took it back 58 yards for the pick-6. A low snap on the extra-point attempt was mishandled, but Round Valley tossed it to Kyle Clark on the fire drill and the Elks made a 2-point conversion instead and went up early 8-0 with 10:10 left in the first quarter. It would be the Elks’ only points of the half. 

Thatcher answered by going to Christian Carter, who bobbed and weaved through the Elks defense for a 20-yard gain to put the Eagles at mid-field. 

Carter finished the drive with a 37-yard TD reception from Brett Jones on a 4th and 13. Carter took the screen pass in the backfield and then did the rest, racing through the defense to put Thatcher on the board. The Eagles went for 2 and Carter Peck crossed the line to tie the game up at 8-8 with 5:23 left in the opening quarter.

“Surprisingly, we throw the ball,” coach Dan Jones said. “Yeah, it’s shocking. We’ve got some really dynamic receivers out there so we made it happen a couple of times. It was nice.”  

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Crew Farris (24) gets ready to haul in a 28-yard TD pass from Brett Jones.

Brett Jones finished the game with 3 TDs on his belt as he connected with Wyatt Nickolas on a deep bomb for a 65-yard TD late in the second quarter and hit Crew Farris for a 28-yard TD to put the Eagles up 22-8 at the half. 

Thatcher’s second turnover of the night occurred in the third quarter when Carter lost the handle and Jonathan Madrid recovered for Round Valley. The Elks then moved the ball to the 5-yard line on a long run by Marble, who was horse-collared tackled on the play. However, the officials failed to call a penalty and an ensuing conversation between Round Valley coaching staff and officials ended with two unsportsmanlike penalties against Round Valley and moved the ball back to the 35 for a first and goal from there. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Thatcher head coach Dan Jones instructs his players.

Round Valley then got was appeared to be an obvious make-up call with a pass interference penalty call in the end zone when the Round Valley player was the aggressor. 

Still, the Elks faced a fourth and goal from the 10 and Marble hit Brody Ziegler for the score. The extra-point attempt went wide right and Thatcher still led, 22-14, at the end of the third quarter. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: RV quarterback Ryker Marble throws downfield.

The Eagles’ offense stalled, and Thatcher simply couldn’t move the ball in the second half and punted early in the fourth quarter. 

Round Valley continued its ground game, relying mostly on quarterback Marble keeping the ball for scrambles as he gave the Elks a first and goal from the 3 after a run. 

Marble then did it with his arm and hit Brett Jordan on a 3-yard TD pass. The Elks were still down, 22-20, and Thatcher’s Cody Bingham stopped Gauge Baker at the goal line to nullify the Elks’ 2-point conversion attempt. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: RV quarterback Ryker Marble looks for a lane between Thatcher defenders.

Thatcher’s defense did what it had to do to hold on to the win, and now it was up to its offense to preserve the victory. 

Round Valley thought differently. The Elks crowded the line of scrimmage and forced a three-and-out to get the ball back one last time. 

With time running out, it looked bleak for the Elks as they faced a 4th and 8 from Thatcher’s 45 with just 40 seconds left to play. That’s when the Elks dialed up the ol’ Hook and Ladder play and Marble hit Jordan for a short catch and as the defense swarmed for the tackle Jordan pitched it to a sprinting Kyle Clark who had a lane down the left sideline. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Kyle Clark catches a touchdown pass.

The Thatcher faithful held their breath as Clark raced down the sideline with seemingly nobody available to stop him as he was escorted by a blocker as well. Suddenly, Christian Carter zoomed up and avoided the block, and forced Clark back inside just enough for Madden Magill to catch up and finish Clark before the end zone. The Elks would have had it first and goal from the six, but as Clark got up and Magill was still fighting for the ball Clark pushed Magill’s helmet garnering a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty that pushed Round Valley back to the 21. 

Facing 3rd and 4 from the 17 with just 9 seconds left to play, Round Valley went for the win with the field goal and just missed. 

“Last week we were within a yard of being another win, so we’re right there,” coach Dan Jones said. “We’re just having letdowns when we shouldn’t have letdowns. There’s just small things we gotta fix . . . We’re extremely inexperienced – a lot of young kids. And it’s just a growing process in getting it done.” 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: RV assistant coach Michael Alba instructs his players.

In other local prep action: 

Safford defeated (Tucson) Rincon/University 49-17. The Bulldogs will next host the Sabino Sabercats on Friday, Sept. 15, starting at 7 p.m. 

Pima defeated Morenci 19-16 (Thursday night). The Roughriders will next travel to face the St. Johns Redskins on Saturday, Sept. 16, starting at 6 p.m. The Wildcats will next hold its home opener against the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets on Friday, Sept. 15, starting at 7 p.m. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Despite being under pressure, Thacher quarterback Brett Jones threw for 3 TDs.

St. David defeated Duncan 45-14. The Wildkats will next host the Baboquivari Warriors on Friday, Sept. 22, starting at 7 p.m. 

Fort Thomas’ game was canceled. The Apaches next travel to face the Tempe Prep Knights on Friday, Sept. 15, starting at 7 p.m.