It turned out that it didn’t matter all-everything running back Shane McCullen spent much of the second half trying to loosen up his right hamstring.
Tripper Meason and Mike Taylor filled in admirably, rushing for a combined 100 yards and helping Apache Junction roll to a 28-7 win Friday night over visiting Glendale Independence in a 4A-I non-region game.
“It’s nice too know there are backups when you need them,” McCullen said. “But I still wanted to play.”
McCullen, the leading rusher among East Valley big schools with 723 yards coming into the game, had already done his part anyway. He rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown and caught a 62-yard pass for a score 43 seconds before halftime to give the Prospectors (4-2) the lead for good, 14-7.
McCullen got just behind the defense, had to reach back to catch the pass from Nate Scola and then out-sprinted the Patriot defensive backfield to score.
It was all about the Prospector ball-control offense in the second half. Apache Junction killed the first half of the third quarter in driving for another touchdown, Mike Taylor’s power carry from the 3. Then, a fumble and some tough defense when needed kept Independence (0-5) at bay.
“I’m still not satisfied because we’re not a mid-season level,” Prospectors coach Rich Milligan said. “Now we go into region and there are tough teams.”
Apache Junction only major slip up on Friday was the first play of the second quarter. Independence had the ball on its 20 after a missed field goal. Patriot quarterback Jeff Seelinger had little success moving the ball all night except on this one play. Seelinger found Erick Andrews Jr. 20 yards behind the Prospector defense after faking an inside handoff and Andrews easily scored to give Independence a 7-0 lead. The Patriots only gained a total of 92 yards the rest of the night.
Scola also stepped up, picking up a key first down in the opening drive of the second half and completing 6-of-9 passes for 119 yards.
Vitals: Shane McCullen rushed for a touchdown and caught a TD pass in leading host Apache Junction past Glendale Independence 28-7 Friday in a 4A-I nonregion game.
Highlights: McCullen caught a 62-yard TD pass from Nate Scola 43 seconds before halftime to give the Prospectors (4-2) the lead for good.
Player of the game: McCullen had 85 yards rushing and 65 receiving.
Key stat: A.J. held Independence to 172 total yards.