Sometimes all you need is to simply finish what you’ve started.
Such was the case for a Gilbert team that has struggled most of the year. In its 31-22 Division I, Section II victory over host Skyline (4-4, 2-3), Gilbert was able to open and close strongly.
“The thing we have been telling our kids all year, and what they have not been able to do, is play the whole game,” said Gilbert coach Leland Rogers. “Tonight they did that and the defense finished the game for us.”
Whether it was scoring a touchdown on their first drive or closing out the game with three sacks, the Tigers (2-6, 2-3) were able to overcome several mistakes they made in the game.
“The biggest thing that has really crippled us has been our mistakes,” Rogers said. “All week we told the boys ‘that we’re going to make mistakes, don’t get discouraged.’ And we did make mistakes. But we stayed positive. It was that attitude that won it for us.”
The game began a positive as one could hope for. After a strong kickoff return, Gilbert took its first drive 54 yards in four plays. Gilbert quarterback Conner Helvig had a hand in all four plays. He accounted for 33 yards rushing and 16 passing. His 8-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Malolo gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
Overall, it was career night for Helvig, who had 201 passing yards with three touchdowns. He also had 113 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown.
“Their quarterback made us look silly,” said Skyline coach Angelo Paffumi.
The Coyotes also sought to stick to their strengths. On its first drive of the game, Skyline marched 80 yards in seven plays with running back Francisco Avitia scoring on a 50-yard run. Avitia led all rushers with 150 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.
Avitia opened the fourth quarter with a 16-yard touchdown run that pulled the Coyotes within six at 28-22. The Skyline defense then held Gilbert to its only three-and-out series of the game. Skyline got as close as Gilbert’s 17-yard-line, but could not convert a fourth-and-13.
Gilbert then held the ball for ten plays and more than five minutes. Austin Carver’s 24-yard filed goal made it a two-possession game at 31-22.
“By not scoring it put us in a bad situation,” Paffumi said. “We’re not really a throwing team and they brought the house.”
On its final possession, Skyline dropped back to pass four times. Skyline quarterback Michael Amado had a strong night running with 62 yards on five carries, including a 56-yard scramble for touchdown.
Gilbert’s Stephen Bundy sacked Amado on a crucial third-down play.
“He’s a scrambler,” Bundy said. “I am just glad I got him wrapped up and on the ground.”
On Skyline’s final offensive play, Alexander Valadez sacked Amado at the Coyotes’ 1-yard-line to secure Gilbert’s second win of the season.
Gilbert 7 14 7 3 – 31
Skyline 7 7 0 8 – 22
First Downs: Gilbert 22, Skyline 14
Rushing: Gilbert 35-174, Skyline 32-220
Comp-Att-Int: Gilbert 17-26-0, Skyline 7-14-0
Passing Yards: Gilbert 201, Skyline 105
Fumbles-Lost: Gilbert 1-0, Skyline 2-1
Penalties-Yards: Gilbert 4-50, Skyline 7-65
G – Malolo 8 pass from Helvig (Carver kick)
S – Avitia 50 run (Willis kick)
G – Cook 35 pass from Helvig (Carver kick)
S – Amado 56 run (Willis kick)
G – Thomas 23 pass from Helvig (Carver kick)
G – Helvig 1 run (Carver kick)
S – Avitia 16 run (Amado run)
G – Carver 24 FG