The momentum from a week ago lasted for almost one quarter Friday night.
One week after Vista Grande’s most impressive outing of the season, a shutout win over Rio Rico, the Spartans traded defensive punches with host Campo Verde for 11 1/2 minutes before blinking. As soon as Gabe Ogbonnaya broke loose on a 49-yard touchdown gallop, the pendulum swung in the Coyotes’ direction and stayed that way the rest of the game in a 42-7 Campo Verde win.
“Defense, special teams and scoring,” Campo Verde coach Max Ragsdale said, describing the team’s priorities. “Our defense played well. They do so many formation changes that your personnel needs to pay attention always. We hang our hat on our defense.”
Campo Verde’s defense was so effective that Vista Grande didn’t get its third first down until there were two minutes remaining in the third quarter. By then, the Spartans (2-8) trailed 35-0. They were unable to establish any offensive rhythm, finishing with 115 total yards. The Coyotes were especially stingy with their run defense, yielding 56 yards on 40 carries.
Finton Connoly and Josh Golden led a swarming defense that stuffed seven first-half Vista Grande offensive plays for negative yardage. After being held scoreless until Ogbonnaya’s long TD run with 32 seconds left in the first quarter, Campo Verde scored three second-quarter touchdowns to surge to a 28-0 halftime advantage.
Ogbonnaya scored the Coyotes’ second touchdown on a 28-yard run. Luke Pineda added two second-quarter touchdowns through the air. After Campo Verde extended the lead to 35-0 in the third quarter, Vista Grande was able to put together a 12-play, 73-yard drive capped by Patrick Amerson hooking up with Aaron Soto on a 22-yard scoring play. And then Erick Belcher took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for the final score of the game.
“They are a well-coached team, physical and fast,” Vista Grande coach Carlo Hernandez said. “They are disciplined with their assignments and are football wise.
“We knew it was going to be tough. But it was the story of our season: (lack of) execution and fundamental football. We weren’t able to put it together. They pinned their ears back early and fired off the ball. They flew around, and we couldn’t do much against them.”
The Spartans were able to hold their own defensively at the start, forcing the Coyotes to punt on their first two possessions. When Campo Verde was finally able to put a drive together, the Coyotes were stifled when Leo Lopez pounced on a fumble. The turnover occurred at the Vista Grande 7, and the Spartans were unable to get a first down. Thus field position swung back in the Coyotes’ favor, and Campo Verde got its offense on track at that point.
Ogbonnaya finished with 10 carries for 137 yards for the Coyotes, who were balanced with 217 rushing and 207 passing yards.
Matt Leija was Vista Grande’s best offensive weapon with 17 carries for 58 yards. Amerson was accurate with the short toss, completing 9 of 14 passes for 59 yards.
But the Spartans ran 54 plays from scrimmage and barely got above 2 yards per play against a team that held seven of its opponents to 14 points or less this season.
The Coyotes enter the playoffs on a three-game winning streak in which they have yielded a total of 16 points. Vista Grande heads into the offseason hoping to find more offense to complement a young defense that figures to be the team’s strength in 2013.