The team that built its own outdoor weight-lifting facility is now building its case as the best football program in 2A.
With Tempe Prep's 25-0 win over Valley Christian on Friday, the Knights once again sent shockwaves throughout the 2A prep football scene, having already beaten No.1 Scottsdale Christian, 35-13, earlier in the year and winning at Thatcher last week.
This time the Knights shut out the defending 2A state champions, the first time the Trojans were held scoreless since 2003. Valley Christian’s vaunted running attack was reduced to 87 yards on 37 carries, 160 yards below the team's average.
“We don’t have a lot of big kids but they fly to the football,” Coach Thomas Brittain said.
With its largest player weighing in at 215 pounds, the Knights were much smaller than their Troian counterparts, who feature imposing offensive lineman such as 275-pound Colton Udall.
Size, however, is only measured in numbers.
“We don’t have locker rooms, we don’t have a football field, we don’t have a gym, we don’t have a p.e. class, we don’t have cheerleaders, we don’t have a band and we are just maxed out on a little, tiny campus,“ Brittain said. “But we’ve got kids who work hard, and are buying in, and all the clichés really prove true.”
Eight players on Tempe Prep play both sides of the football. They seemed to thrive off the non-stop action on the defensive end, where they may not have a missed a tackle Friday.
Tempe Prep‘s defense never allowed the Trojans to reach the Knights' 20-yard line, created scores for the offense, and even handled the job themselves.
In the first quarter, former center and current linebacker Kyle Whalen intercepted a Josh Pineda pass, made a couple of moves and returned it 32 yards for the first score of the game.
“First time I’ve ever touched the ball in my football career,” Whalen said.
Linebacker Robert Otting-crandall set up the Knights' second touchdown with another interception of Pineda, allowing Tempe Prep’s offense to go just 44 yards for the score.
Paradoxically it was Tempe Prep, with its smaller team, smaller players and a meager budget, that wore out the Trojans.
Up 23-0 after quarterback Max Wiese found receiver Connor Gourley from 18 yards out, the Knights delivered a coup de gras blow, one that may fester in the minds of Trojan players.
On the verge of succumbing to frustration in the fourth quarter after a few penalties, including false starts and personal fouls, the Trojans started a drive on their own 18. In three plays, including a 6-yard loss on an attempted halfback pass, and a 7-yard loss on a screen pass. The Trojans were tackled for a loss in their end zone for a safety.
“I see a coaching staff that makes no excuses,” Valley Christian coach Kevin Allen said of the Knights. “They are building from the inside-out. That’s a team that has the desire to get their program into the upper-echelon of schools.”