Down one. The game, section title, and possibly a playoff berth on the line.
With a touchdown scored and no time remaining, Scottsdale Prep coach Will Munsil decided to go for the 2-point conversion and the win after his Spartans improbably scored on the last play of regulation.
Tempe Prep defensive back Gabriel LeBeau broke up quarterback Nick Smith’s pass, and the Knights held on for a 27-26 victory in Division V on Friday night at Valley Christian High School.
“I thought we had it,” Munsil said. “We had a play on that could have scored it and we just quite didn’t get it done. They made another nice play. This is our first year playing 11-man football. We’ve only been kicking extra points for about 10 weeks. We felt confident in going for two there. The play was there, but we just didn’t quite get the play done. You want to win the game. They were down and I thought we hd a chance to step on it and win it right there. But it didn’t work. That’s my fault.”
All seemed lost for Scottsdale Prep (7-3) when Smith was sacked on fourth-and-3, as the Spartans turned the ball over on downs with 1:45 left in regulation.
With only one timeout remaining, the Scottsdale Prep defense was able to stop the Knights (7-3) and force a punt, but it came with nine seconds remaining. The snap was low, however, and the Tempe Prep punter was forced to simply fall on the ball.
The Spartans took over on downs at the Knights' 45-yard line. Smith’s pass on first down was incomplete in the end zone, intended for Ben McKeighan, who finished the game with six catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.
With two seconds left, Smith, who finished the game 22 of 38 for 254 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, threw deep for Matt Munsil, who broke a tackle and raced into the end zone to bring Scottsdale Prep within one. The game was seemingly headed for overtime, until the Spartans tried instead to win the game by going for two.
“We’ve been practicing keying all week on (Munsil),” said LeBeau, who lined up at safety on the play instead of his normal cornerback spot. “I just bailed to the corner right away because we’ve been watching so much film. Our defensive coordinator told me to get to the corner and they threw a jump ball right away.”
Coach Munsil’s decision was even riskier when you consider his teams precarious hold on one of the final Division V playoff spots. Scottsdale Prep came into the game ranked 12th in the power rankings and will obviously drop with the loss. It remains to be seen how far the Spartans will fall, but Munsil didn’t think his team would fall out of the playoffs entirely.
“If the computers are kind to us, and I think they should be given that our three losses have been to two state champions and one semifinal team from last year. That 7-3 record like that should get you in the playoffs, and if it doesn’t there is something wrong with the system. So we’ll see what happens.”
On the other side is Tempe Prep, which, after starting the season 0-3 and not scoring a point in its first three games, has now rallied back and won seven in a row to win the Section IV championship on the way towards clinching a playoff spot.
“I knew we had a good team,” Knights coach Thomas Brittain said. “I didn’t know how much competition our section would give us this year with a lot of new teams to 11-man football, so I scheduled the toughest three teams I could get. And I looked like a darn fool. But those three teams made us tougher and our confidence has grown every week.”
Tempe Prep 27, Scottsdale Prep 26
First Downs: Tempe Prep 17, Scottsdale Prep 20
Rushing: Tempe Prep 50-392, Scottsdale Prep 36-171
Passing: Tempe Prep 1-3-24-0-1, Scottsdale Prep 23-39-301-3-2
Fumbles-Lost: Tempe Prep 2-1, Scottsdale Prep 2-0
Penalty yards: Tempe prep 6-45, Scottsdale Prep 3-35
Tempe Prep 14 0 13 0 -- 27
Scottsdale Prep 0 14 6 6 -- 26
TP: Isaiah Brittain 6 run (run failed)
TP: Zack Brittain 40 run (Isaiah Brittain run)
SP: McKeighan 23 pass from Smith (Speno kick)
SP: Munsil 15 pass from Smith (Speno kick)
SP: Boyll 10 run (Pass failed)
TP: Akiu 12 run (Hiser kick)
TP: Isaiah Brittain 94 un (Run failed)
SP: Munsil 45 pass from Smith (Pass failed)