Though the final score was indicate of a relatively close game, Red Mountain had little trouble Friday night with Skyline, getting a strong defensive effort in a convincing 35-14 win.
The Mountain Lions (7-2) jumped on the Coyotes (4-5) early and often, leading 21-0 at halftime and scoring the game’s first 35 points in all.
Red Mountain’s defense led the way in this one, shutting down the Skyline offense all night while forcing four turnovers and numerous three-and-outs. The Mountain Lions also had an impressive goal-line stand at the end of the first half, stuffing the Coyotes four straight times from the 1-yard line to force a turnover on downs. Skyline did not score until late in the game, when the outcome was clearly decided and Red Mountain had put in its backups.
"Our defense played outstanding,” said Mountain Lions coach Ron Wisniewski. “They did get a couple scores at the end, and credit them for that. We made a lot of substitutions and let a lot of our kids play. But our starters, when they were in there, set the tone for this game. Right at the beginning, they couldn’t run it on us and we got the turnover and scored defensively. It really just set the tone.”
The first touchdown of the game was scored by that Red Mountain defense, as Diego Hernandez scooped up a fumble and returned it 27 yards to make it 7-0.
"On the opening drive, we were just really excited,” Hernandez said. “So we came out really pumped up, and then the ball was laying on the ground and I picked it up and got a touchdown right off the bat. The rest of the night, we were just forcing a bunch of turnovers and stuff like that. That goal-line stand we had, I’ve never seen our team that hyped before. We were just ready to go and just shut them down there.”
Running back Adarian Limbs added two touchdown runs in the first half to make the score 21-0 at the break. Despite the commanding lead at the break, not everything was well for the Mountain Lions, as Wisniewski was disappointed by his team's offensive focus and the 13 penalties for 141 yards. In response, Wisniewski sat his skill players to start the second half and inserted Brennan Dobson at quarterback.
“It had nothing to do with the score,” Wisniewski said. “It had everything to do with we need an attitude adjustment as a football team. We felt as a coaching staff, after discussing it, that the best thing for us to do was to sit those guys down and watch some other guys play.”
The change seemed to work, as the Mountain Lions took the second-half kickoff and marched 54 yards for a score on a 1-yard touchdown run by Colton Plourd to make it 28-0. Wisniewski must not have been satisfied, however, as after Skyline running back Francisco Avitia fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive - Anthony Campos recovered at Skyline’s 8 yard line for Red Mountain - Dobson was replaced by Caleb Murray-Thomas. On the first play, Murray-Thomas was intercepted in the end zone by Skyline's Bentley Crandell.
Murray-Thomas was again intercepted on his next drive (again deep in Skyline territory), which prompted another change by Wisneiwski. He decided to bring back his starters, and they delivered, as quarterback Mason Thorman connected with Plourd for a 6-yard touchdown pass to effectively put the game away.
“We decided that we made the point that we needed to make,” Wisniewski said. “I wanted them to go out there and get a series and see how they would handle what we put them through right there. Disappointingly, we still had a bunch of penalties. But we did manage to overcome them and go down and score. But too many penalties. Lack of focus. Lack of discipline. We can’t have that. We can’t win in the playoffs with that.”
Skyline coach Angelo Paffumi credited Red Mountain’s defense after the game.
“Our offense didn’t move the ball at all until the very end. We had one big play over the top. We didn’t move the ball until they put their second string in. Give them credit. Their defense played extremely well. Our offense just absolutely didn’t show up, and they did a very good job. Their defense shut us down completely.”
Red Mountain 35, Skyline 14
Red Mountain 7 14 7 7 - 35
Skyline 0 0 0 14 - 14
First Downs: Red Mountain 20, Skyline 9
Rushing-Yds: Red Mountain 30-159, Skyline 30-100
Comp-Att-Int: Red Mountain 17-29-2, Skyline- 5-10-0
Passing Yds: Red Mountain 192, Skyline 69
Fumbles-Lost: Red Mountain 1-1, Skyline 5-4
Penalties-Yards: Red Mountain 13-141, Skyline 2-20
RM- Hernandez 27 fumble return (Flake kick)
RM- Limbs 6 run (Tani kick)
RM- Limbs 1 run (Tani kick)
RM- Plourd 1 run (Flake kick)
RM- Plourd 6 pass from Thorman (Tani kick)
S- Tucker 28 pass from Amado (Avitia run)
S- Houston 37 fumble return (run failed)