Maafu carries upstart-Arcadia into Div. III semifinals - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Maafu carries upstart-Arcadia into Div. III semifinals

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Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2011 11:15 pm | Updated: 1:33 pm, Fri Nov 11, 2011.

Arcadia's Sosaia Maafu said he wouldn't mind sharing the ball more around the goal line.

"I like to carry the ball down the field," Maafu said. "But I try to stop at the 1-yard line so someone else on my team can get the touchdown."

But Titans coach Jim Ellison said he is OK with his senior's selfishness.

"When we get down inside the five, I'm not dumb, the ball is going to him," Ellison said.

True to his word, Ellison ran his work horse often Thursday in a 35-34 win against No. 2-seed Peoria Liberty to advance to the Division III state semifinals.

The Titans will face No. 3 Glendale Cactus on Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. at Paradise Valley High School.

Maafu ran for 256 yards on 27 carries and four touchdowns. That brings his season total to 30.

The 6-foot 217-pound back gave the Lions fits all night, rumbling up the gut against a defense that has allowed 24 points per game this season and has struggled against the run through the last half of the season.

"We couldn't stop the run and that's what (Arcadia) does best," said Liberty coach Dan Filleman. "We knew they would ride (Maafu), he's a good ball player. He keeps his legs going and is a tough one to bring down."

While Maafu pounded the ball between the tackles much of the game, he showed some finesse on the Titans opening drive of the second half. Down 20-14, Maafu took a pitch from quarterback Cole Richardson, then head faked his way to a 22-yard touchdown.

Liberty had a chance to tie things up early in the fourth quarter when running back scored on a 16-yard run. The Lions went for two but Drake Bennetch sacked quarterback Tyler Rogers.

The No. 7 seed Arcadia answered with a 6-play, 66-yard drive that chewed up 3 minutes. Maafu capped it with a 1-yard run over center, his fourth carry of the drive that included a 37-yard run to open the drive.

"Tonight I give it up to the coaches and their play calling," Maafu said. "We came out in the second half and played Arcadia football."

Liberty didn't go away, though. The Lions came back one play later when senior running back Kyle Harms ran a sweep around the right side for an 80-yard touchdown. Wide out Paul Panaccione converted the two-point conversion to the Lions down by one with 4:15 remaining.

After a three-and-out, the Lions pushed the ball down field before Rogers was picked off at midfield by Mitch Manor.

"I give it up to Arcadia and coach Ellison, he had his guys ready to play," Filleman said. "Offensively, we got shut down in the third quarter. We have to be able to move the ball and stop the run."

The shoe was on the other foot in the first half. The Lions sacked Richardson on the first play from scrimmage, then the senior quarterback fumbled the snap.

Offensively, Liberty put 10 points on the board in the first on a Matt Emineth 10-yard run and a 30-yard Willie Schwab field goal. Harms added an 88-yard touchdown to hand the Lions a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.

By then, after watching three mistakes turn into Liberty points, Ellison had seen enough.

"I regrouped the kids," Ellison said. "I said ‘we are at a point right now where if we turn it around we can win this game. But if it continues we won't be able to dig out of this hole. They all looked me in the eye, told me they would do their best, made the adjustments and followed through."

With some adjustments from offensive line coach Lenny Abt, the Titans offense responded, breaking the shutout on Richardson's 1-yard run 6 minutes into the second quarter.

The win has special meaning to the Titan seniors who have been with Ellison since he took over the program four years ago. It is Arcadia's first trip to the semifinals under Ellison.

"This means a lot," Maafu said. "We've been with coach Ellison since we were freshman and it's the first time we've moved past the second round."

 

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