After giving up a 62-yard touchdown run to Higley, Apache Junction kick returner John Taylor knew his team needed a big play in response.
Taylor provided that big play by running back the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to erase a short-lived Higley lead and propel the Prospectors to a 27-21 East Sky Region victory at Higley.
Trailing 21-17 after Hector Hernandez's 62-yard run, Taylor took the kickoff up the right sideline for the score that tipped momentum back to Apache Junction.
"It was a big confidence boost for us," Taylor said. "We needed to make a play."
The Prospectors (6-3 overall, 2-1 East Region) withstood a fourth-quarter Higley drive that got as far as the Apache Junction 16-yard line. However, on a fourth-and-4 play the Knights fumbled the snap and, despite recovering the ball, turned it over on downs. Apache Junction rode their workhorse running back, sophomore Shane McCullen, to run out the clock and seal the win.
McCullen carried 42 times for 198 yards, including a pair of touchdowns.
"The blocking was awesome tonight," said McCullen, who had scores of 53 and 2 yards. "I was a little sore but the adrenaline kept me going."
"He did a great job," Apache Junction coach Max Ragsdale said of McCullen. "He sucked it up and got it done."
The Knights offense generated 394 yards of offense but committed four turnovers that led to 13 Prospector points. Higley (6-2, 2-1) opened the scoring with a ten play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a nine-yard touchdown run by Hernandez, who finished with a team high 134 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
But Apache Junction got on track in the second quarter as McCullen scored both of his touchdowns. Higley quarterback Jordan Conley connected with receiver Jake Gaylord on a 64-yard touchdown pass after McCullen's second score but the Prospectors still led 17-14 at the half.
"We started slow again," Ragsdale said of his team's early struggles. Apache Junction kicker Cody Morrow made a pair of field goals, including a 30-yarder late in the fourth quarter to provide the final margin of victory.