McClintock coach Steve Campbell expected a challenge from the Tucson Amphitheater offense. His defense met the test.
With the Panthers threatening in the final minutes, cornerback Andre Jackson snatched Ben Humphreys' pass and scampered 55 yards for a game-sealing touchdown that gave McClintock a 17-7 victory Friday over visiting Amphitheater in a 4A non-region game.
"We only had a three-point lead and they were driving down the field to either tie the game or win it. (The interception) was a huge shift that put the game away," Campbell said.
It also gave the Chargers a 4-0 record — a huge shift from last year's early struggles.
"I know what they're going through because we went through it last year," Campbell said of winless Amphitheater (0-4). "There is no question that they're a good football team."
The Panthers wasted little time showing that they were ready to play — scoring on their second possession when Humphreys hit running back Joe Smith on back-to-back passes, the latter going for a 26-yard touchdown.
But running back Devin Richardson answered with a 74-yard touchdown run on McClintock's next possession.
Darrel Rosenbaum booted a 33-yard field goal late in the second period for a 10-7 lead.
Richardson, who averages nine yards per carry, rushed 140 yards on 10 carries in the first half and finished with for 183 yards on 20 attempts.
But miscues plagued the Chargers throughout the game. They were whistled five times for 60 yards, including an unsportsman-like conduct call that, instead of giving McClintock a first down on the Panthers' 40 with 2:29 to play in the game, gave the ball back to Amphitheater.
"We've got to stop the mental errors," said Chargers linebacker Josh Thomas, who finished with two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Quarterback Gavin Lemusu agreed: "Everyone's just excited. They can't wait to get out and play. We're happy we're on a roll right now."