For the first 22 minutes of Thursday night’s contest, Glendale Apollo pushed all the right buttons on the road.
But with a 14-3 lead late in the first half, coach Zack Threadgill wanted even more going into the locker room. With a fourth-and-6 situation at the 48-yard line, the Hawks decided to go for it in an effort to pad their double-digit lead.
The move backfired, though, as quarterback Jordan Gungl fired incomplete, and from there Cactus Shadows took control.
Led by sophomore quarterback Davan Norris, who came off the bench to throw the first three touchdown passes of his career, Cactus Shadows (3-0) reeled off 22 unanswered points en route to a 32-21 comeback victory.
“We’ve been talking adversity since I got here,” Cactus Shadows coach Greg Davis. “In past years, we would have folded up and fallen behind 28-3. But the way these kids fought back and made big plays when they needed to says a lot about them.
“There was a point in the game where they could have reverted back to what they’ve been, but they took the high road. I’m excited about that.”
The Falcons imposed their will following Apollo's costly turnover on downs, but Apollo also didn’t do itself any favors to start the second half.
Despite allowing a late touchdown pass from Norris to wide receiver Antonio Marchica in the waning moments of the second quarter, the Hawks still led 14-11 going into halftime.
However, on the first two drives of the second half, Apollo running back Jacob Garcia and wide receiver Fred Macias each put the ball on the ground, the latter of which led to a 55-yard touchdown run by Cactus Shadows halfback Joe Kuhlmann (24 carries for 136 yards).
“My offensive linemen did all the work,” said Kuhlmann, whose touchdown put Cactus Shadows ahead for good. “They made a great down block for me, and I saw a lane. From there, I just cut back down the sideline for the score.”
Kuhlmann’s scamper late in the third quarter didn’t officially end the contest, but it gave the Falcons more than enough breathing room on their way to a third consecutive win to start 2013. With the 11-point victory, Cactus Shadows tied its win total from each of the last two seasons.
For Apollo, the turnovers and subsequent defeat weren’t easy to swallow, but Threadgill did his best to look ahead to the team’s remaining seven games.
Apollo finished 10-2 last season and reached the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs.
“Not punting before the end of the half hurt us and that’s on me as a coach,” said Threadgill. “That was the turning point in the game. But, we’re going to be fine. We have a lot of great kids with a ton of heart and character. They’re going to learn from this film and get better.
“We let one get away from us, but we are three games into the season. We have a lot of football to play and a lot of good football left to play.”
Cactus Shadows 32, Apollo 21
First Downs: A 21, CS 13
Rushing: A 31-165, CS 37-177
Passing (Comp.-Att.-Yards-TD-INT): A 18-27-209-1-0, CS 6-12-92-3-0,
Fumbles-lost: A 3-3, CS 0-0
Penalties-yards: A 8-60, CS 3-25
Apollo 7 7 0 7 - 21
C. Shadows 3 8 14 7 - 32
A: Mohammed 31-yard pass from Gungl (Flores kick)
CS: Marchica 41 kick
A: Bayless 1 run (Flores kick)
CS: Marchica 8-yard pass from Norris (Two-point conversion)
CS: Bobelick 26-yard pass from Norris (Marchica kick)
CS: Kuhlmann 55 run (Marchica kick)
A: Bayless 1 run (Flores kick)
CS: Bobelick 14-yard pass from Norris (Marchica kick)