Scottsdale Christian made a goal-line stand in the final minute Friday to deny Valley Christian a chance at a second straight state title.
The Eagles’ stingy defense preserved a 21-17 victory in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs and puts them into a second-round matchup at Yuma Catholic next Friday.
Valley Christian (6-4) had a chance to win it after Drew Bond intercepted a Miller Bentley pass and ran it back 38 yards to the 9-yard line of the Eagles.
Two carries by Sean Higgins moved the ball to the 2-yard line. Tyler Hunt’s third down sweep was snuffed out and Higgins had one more shot on fourth down. But his run on a counter play to the left was stopped six inches short of the end zone.
“It’s hard to be in this position. Give them credit for a great goal-line stand,” Trojans coach Kevin Allen said. “We just came up a little short.”
The other key play of the game was a muffed punt late in the third quarter. Valley Christian was set to receive and the return man lost the handle on the ball. It rolled down to the Trojans’ 14-yard line where the Eagles (8-2) recovered.
“In a game like this, it’s going to come down to defense, field position and whichever team makes fewer mistakes,” Eagles coach Jeff Fox said. “We had to take care of the football and we did a good job of it.”
Two plays later, Bentley found Chauncey Wright on a seam pass for the eventual game-winning touchdown. Bentley finished with 141 yards and 3 touchdowns on 9-of-16 passing.
“I think Miller had a blessed night. He’s been through a lot with struggling in his play,” Fox said. “We started a different quarterback tonight because we were uncertain of where he was at and he responded tremendously.”
Scottsdale Christian’s offense came to life in the second half, down 10-0. Luke Simon blocked a punt from Valley Christian after the Trojans’ first series of the second half.
Five plays later, Bentley fund Wright for a 27-yard touchdown pass with 7:33 left in the third quarter.
Two minutes later, Bentley found tight end Sam Fillingame in the front of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 14-10 lead.
“Having them down 10-0 at half, we knew the game wasn’t over,” Allen said. “When you turn the ball over on special teams, it can give them momentum to get back into it.”
The Trojans responded with a Josh Pineda touchdown pass to Steven Shieh in the back of the end zone for a 17-14 lead. Shieh positioned himself perfectly and got between two defenders to make the catch.
The Trojans took advantage of a costly first-half turnover by the Eagles. A low snap to Chauncey Washington in the wildcat formation led to a fumble recovered by Chris Caruth and gave the Trojans the ball near midfield.
Valley Christian ran an 11-play drive that chewed up seven minutes of clock and finished with Tyler Hunt finding the end zone from a yard out for the game’s first touchdown.
Valley Christian opened the scoring with a 26-yard field goal from Zach Longanecker midway through the first quarter.