Behind the strong right arm of quarterback Emanuel Gant and his bevy of weapons, Tempe High dominated the third quarter Friday night and blew open what was a close game before coasting to a comfortable victory.
Gant threw for 187 of his 417 yards in the third period, when the Buffaloes took a six-point halftime lead to a 28-point advantage and an eventual 45-27 win at home.
The junior Gant, built more like a defensive end at 6-feet-3 and 225 pounds than a quarterback, connected with five different receivers and completed nine passes for at least 20 yards in leading Tempe to 585 total yards and its first 4-0 start to a season since 2004.
"It's a great feeling. We take it seriously," said Gant, who threw two of his three touchdowns and caught a pass for another score in the decisive third quarter. "We're taught to come out in the second half even stronger (than the first). So that's what we did and it showed on the scoreboard."
Massiah Smith was Gant's big-play target, as the senior caught touchdown passes of 55 and 63 yards and hauled in five completions for 156 yards. Osvaldo Gomez added five receptions for 92 yards.
The passing game was aided by junior transfer Kam'ron Johnson's 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
"It's beautiful to have that two-way attack and having weapons all around," said Tempe coach Brian Walker, who was a combined 4-12 in the first four weeks of his previous four seasons at the helm. "We're happy for Tempe High, we're happy for the community; 4-0 is great but we still have a ways to go. We have to get better at the little things."
The Buffaloes were penalized 12 times for 124 yards.
Jesse Hernandez kicked a 32-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter and Tempe scored 22 unanswered points in the third quarter. But it wasn't just an offensive onslaught after the intermission. Thunderbird (1-3) registered just one first down in the third period.
"We just knuckled up and followed the game plan," Walker said of his defense. "And tackled better. We didn't tackle well in the first half. In the second half, we made some halftime adjustments and then came out and tackled better."
Darren Dorsey led the Chiefs 124 rushing yards in 16 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
Tempe, which goes on the road to Shadow Mountain next week, had a good shot to eclipse 600 total yards but ran just seven plays in the fourth quarter, one of which was a field goal attempt and on two others Gant took a knee to end the game.
TEMPE 45, THUNDERBIRD 27
Thunderbird 7 7 0 13 — 27
Tempe 13 10 22 0 — 45
Th — Dorsey 9 run (Taylor kick), 5:02
Te — Johnson 56 run (Hernandez kick), 4:03
Te — Smith 55 pass from Grant (kick failed), 1:11
Te — Johnson 2 run (Hernandez kick), 6:54
Th — Hofer 8 pass from Glatting (Taylor kick), 3:07
Te — Hernandez 32 FG, 0:00
Te — Smith 63 pass from Gant (Savage from Gant), 11:31
Te — Garrett 20 pass from Gant (Hernandez kick), 7:08
Te — Gant 3 pass from Johnson (Hernandez kick), 3:43
Th — Dorsey 16 run (Taylor kick), 6:51
Th — Turner 5 pass from Glatting (run failed), 4:22
First downs 24, 27
Rushing 41-237, 21-165
Passing 16-28-137-0, 23-33-420-0
Fumbles-Lost 3-2, 1-0
Penalties-Yards 9-54, 12-124
RUSHING — Thunderbird: Dorsey 16-124, Gomez 6-39, Pelt 13-38, Russo 2-17, Hofer 3-14, Glatting 1-5. Tempe: Johnson 13-148, Whitmore 4-14, Gant 3-2, Anderson 1-1.
PASSING — Thunderbird: Glatting 16-27-137-0, Turner 0-1-0-0. Tempe: Gant 22-31-417-0, Johnson 1-1-3-0, Garrett 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Thunderbird: Turner 8-87, Dorsey 2-25, Hofer 4-20, Pelt 2-5. Tempe: Smith 5-156, Gomez 5-92, Watkins 4-65, Johnson 5-62, Garrett 3-42, Gant 2-19.
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