Josh Eckley knew he couldn’t fail.
The Marcos de Niza quarterback slithered his was into the end zone from 11 yards out on the game’s final play as No. 3 Marcos de Niza escaped with a 29-27 victory over stunned No. 4 Chaparral on Friday night.
Eckley, starting only his second varsity game at quarterback, had fumbled the ball away minutes earlier that allowed Chaparral’s Josh Aganon to score out of the Wildcat formation on a fourth-down, 20-yard run to put the Firebirds ahead 27-23 with 50.2 seconds remaining.
“I kind of messed up earlier so it was in my heart to get it back,” Eckley said. “I had to do it. It was a big play.”
Eckley’s mobility gashed the Chaparral defense all night, including the game’s final play when the middle of the field opened up and the junior used his feet to win the game.
“Originally it was a pass play and I see the middle open up like no other, bigger than every hole in this game,” said Eckley, who rushed for 146 yards on 21 carries. “I took it and was successful.”
The young, inexperienced Firebirds and first-year coach Dave Huffine find themselves in unfamiliar territory at 0-2 given all the success Chaparral has experienced the past few seasons, while Marcos de Niza (2-0) established itself as a contender in Division II.
“We have worked so hard and these boys deserve it,” Marcos de Niza coach Roy Lopez. “Now it is time to just build on it.”
That foundation is being set with a mobile quarterback and a host of offensive weapons, including Mauriece Lee and Jacquese Moore.
Lee rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. His first TD run of 28 yards in the second quarter gave Marcos de Niza an early 7-0 lead. He added a 6-yard score to open the second half that again put Marcos in front 16-14.
Moore hauled in a 7-yard Eckley pass for a TD midway through the third quarter to give Marcos de Niza a 23-20 lead.
Chaparral was careless with football at times. The Firebirds fumbled four times which led to two turnovers. But backup quarterback Brad Schencker replaced starter Sean Paul Brophy, and the Firebirds' offense came to life.
Schencker scored on a 20-yard TD run in the second quarter and added a 6-yard TD pass to Jordin Hamilton on the next drive.
The Firebirds looked in rhythm with Schencker under center and he delivered again in the third quarter with a 50-yard TD pass to Tyler Whiley. Schencker completed 8-of-15 passes for 162 yards and was intercepted once.
“They were consistently driving the ball,” Lopez said.
But Eckley saved his best for the last drive. He completed a 44-yard pass to Paul Elvira to move the ball to the Chaparral 40 and on the next play found Elvira for 29 yards over the middle to get the ball to the Chaparral 11.
Following two incomplete passes, Eckley ran to victory.
"I knew our team could drive down the field,” said Eckley, who completed 12-of-24 passes for 159 yards. “I hit my drop and just took it.”
Marcos de Niza 29, Chaparral 27
Marcos de Niza 0 10 13 6 - 29
Chaparral 0 14 6 7 - 27
First Downs: Marcos de Niza 21, Chaparral 19
Rushing: Marcos de Niza 37-271, Chaparral 29-133
Comp-Att-Int: Marcos de Niza 12-24-0 , Chaparral 14-27-1
Passing Yards: Marcos de Niza 271, Chaparral 235
Fumbles-Lost: Marcos de Niza 3-3, Chaparral 4-2
Penalties-Yards: Marcos de Niza 11-80, Chaparral 9-55
MdN – Lee 28 run (Jones kick)
C – Schnecker 25 run (McReynolds kick)
C – Hamiliton 6 pass from Schencker (McReynolds kick)
MdN – Jones 30 FG
MdN – Lee 6 run (kick failed)
C – Whiley 50 pass from Schencker (kick failed)
MdN – Moore 7 pass from Eckley (Jones kick)
C – Aganon 20 run (McReynolds kick)
MdN – Eckley 11 run