A defense which bends but does not break usually finds ways to win.
Enter the Arcadia defense, which gave up more than 200 yards in the air to Paradise Valley quarterback Ryan Finley but still held off the Trojans for a 24-14 victory Thursday night.
Despite an effective air game against Arcadia, the Titans managed to rush Finley time after time and the defense, led by linebacker Andrew Bradway, stopped the PV offense in three critical fourth down plays.
Overall, Finley was rushed out of the pocket, forced to throw on the run many times, and scrambled to elude a penetrating defense.
“We normally play a 3-4 defense, but changed up this week,” Arcadia coach Jim Ellison said. “To stop (Finley), we brought two additional guys and wanted to rush five on each play.”
The scheme worked and Finley seemed threatened on nearly every play. Still, he managed to complete 20 of 36 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown. When it counted, the Titans defense came up with three important stops on fourth down, all in the final period, to preserve the victory.
Down 21-14 early in the fourth quarter, PV gained possession on its 27-yard line. Five plays into the drive, the Trojans faced a fourth-and-14 at the 50, but Bradway and teammates broke through and sacked Finely for a 14-yard loss.
On the Trojans' next possession, they again forced a fourth-and-2 from the Arcadia 40. His time, PV coach Donnie Yantis tried the ground game but Mikah Ruffino was dropped for a one-yard loss.
Finally, and with just under four minutes remaining in the game, the Trojans faced another fourth down conversion attempt. This time, Finely threw incomplete on a fourth-and-6 from the Arcadia 19-yard line.
“(Finley’s) amazing and we prepared for him all week,” Ellison added. “But we didn’t know what the mad scientist was pulling off over there by going on fourth down so often.”
The “mad scientist” reference was Yantis and his daring fourth down attempts. At other times in fourth and long distance, the Trojans still lined in a straight offensive formation, but Finley dropped back a few yards and quick-kicked in an obvious punting situation.
Meanwhile, the Titans offense scored enough to keep the Trojans at arms-length.
Two running touchdowns by senior Sosaia Maafu paced the offense and created a 21-7 lead by late in the first half. Overall, Maafu picked up 85 yards on 21 carries, while quarterback Cole Richardson was effective by completing 5 of 11 for 78 yards.
“This win was huge for us,” Richardson said. “First, it gets us in the playoffs, and with a few more wins, we can get home games in the postseason.”