This was definitely “gut check” time, and Phoenix Pinnacle responded admirably.
Down by three in the fourth quarter, Pioneers quarterback Alex Cappellini engineered a 12-play, 62-yard drive to lead the Pioneers to a 27-17 victory over Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Friday night.
Cappellini’s 1-yard pass to Dillon Luther capped the drive with less than three minutes remaining, giving Pinnacle a 21-17 lead, and the Pioneers added a defensive touchdown on the final play of the game to tack on another six points.
“That was the time to put it all together,” Cappelini said. “Everyone worked together to get it done.”
Pinnacle (7-1) led 14-0 in the second quarter before Desert Mountain (5-3) tied things up before halftime.
And when Wolves kicker Matt Foley booted a 20-yard field goal with 7:53 remaining in the game, the Pioneers suddenly found themselves trailing 17-14.
But Cappellini & Co. took a deep breath, and then matters into their own hands.
Starting at the Wolves’ 38-yard line, Pinnacle came up with several clutch plays down the stretch.
On third-and-9, wide receiver Alex Zemezonak caught a 22-yard pass from Cappellini to put the ball on the Wolves’ 29. Another Zemezonak reception of 10 yards moved them to the 23-yard line, Luther added a 10-yard run, and two more running plays gave Pinnacle a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
The next two runnings plays were stuffed by Desert Mountain, but on third down Cappellini found Luther on the left side of the end zone for the go-ahead TD.
Earlier, Luther opened the scoring with a 16-yard touchdown run with 2:20 remaining in the opening period, and Cappellini created a 14-0 advantage by bolting in from the 1 with 10:01 remaining in the half.
Yet, two mistakes from Pioneers allowed Desert Mountain to deadlock matters.
First, the Wolves’ Sam Demaree picked off Cappellini and returned the interception 8 yards for a score. Then, Desert Mountain’s Josh Simon blocked a punt and retuned it 8 yards for a touchdown that created a 14-14 tie with 3:42 remaining in the first half.
“We did everything to give this game away,” said Pinnacle coach Dana Zupke. “Give Desert Mountain credit. That’s a tough defense, but, in the end, we made the plays we had to make.”
Pinnacle rounded out the scoring by recovering a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown on the final play of the game.
Cappellini completed 14 of 24 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown. Most of those went to Zemezonak, who had 10 receptions for 130 yards.
Luther paced the ground game with 83 yards on 10 carries.
Kevin Radcliffe led the Wolves with 62 yards rushing on 20 carries, while quarterback Drew Seaman was 8-for-17 for 45 yards and three interceptions.
Late in the second quarter, this one's tied at 14-14. Pinnacle had taken the lead before a blocked punt by Desert Mountain's Josh Simon and a two-point conversion knotted things up just before halftime.
Matt Foley hits a FG to put Desert Mountain up 17-14 with just 7:53 left in the game.
Pinnacle scores on a 1-yard TD pass from Alex Cappanelli to Dillon Luthe to take a 21-17 lead with 2:36 to play.
This one's a final: Pinnacle 27, Desert Mountain 17. Tanner Thurston of Pinnacle recovered a Desert Mountain fumble in the end zone on the final play.
Pinnacle (6-1, 1-1) at Desert Mountain (5-2, 1-1)
Time: 7 p.m.
Address: 12575 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale
Key matchup: Alex Zemezonak is probably Pinnacle's biggest downfield threat offensively and the Pioneers will need to stretch Desert Mountain's defense to keep the Wolves from crowding the line of scrimmage and going after QB Alex Cappellini.Key stat: Desert Mountain QB Drew Seaman threw for a career-high 257 yards and three TDs last week against North Canyon.
The intrigue: In trying to keep up with Chaparral and St. Mary's, the winner stays alive in the Desert Valley race while the loser is all but eliminated. Both teams should withstand a defeat, but Pinnacle needs to bounce back coming off an emotional, frustrating performance against Chaparral. Desert Mountain RB Kevin Radcliffe is recovered after fighting through illness last week, which would allow the Wolves to return to their solid running game.