It didn't take long for Scottsdale Chaparral to put a damper on Scottsdale Horizon's upset bid on Friday, and in the process, the Huskies playoff hopes.
The two-time defending state champions scored two touchdowns in the first 1:07 of the second half to blow open a tight game on their way to a 49-21 Division II victory over the visiting Huskies.
Horizon, No. 20 in the Division II power rankings going into the night, returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and led 14-7 after the first period, but the host Firebirds scored the next six touchdowns.
A 4-yard touchdown run by senior star Davonte Neal with 1:05 left in the first half gave Chaparral the lead for good, 21-14, but it wasn't until the early moments of the second half that the lead was comfortable for the Firebirds.
Sophomore Gary McKay answered Ryan Neel's opening kickoff return with a 99-yarder of his own and when Neel fumbled on the Huskies first second-half possession, the Firebirds took over on the Horizon 5. Neal scored on the next play to put the home team ahead 35-14.
After the next Husky drive was stalled, Chaparral senior co-captain linebacker Cody Ippolito blocked a punt to give his club great field position at the Horizon 28. Firebirds' quarterback Connor Brewer found Zach Buzzard for a 6-yard score on a fourth-and-goal play to make it 42-14 with still 6:09 left in the third quarter.
"We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half," said Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle. Along with Neel's early return, the Firebirds' Neal muffed a punt to set up the second Husky score, a 15-yard pass from Victor Quinn to Julian Perea-Schaefer.
"We stopped ourselves," added Ragle. "You can't give away 14 points. At the half, I told them - it was really simple - just go out and execute."
Horizon double-teams kept Neal at bay for the majority of the first half. He had a big run called back, but was credited with only two carries for two yards, as well as the muffed punt.
With Neal being shut down, the rest of the Firebird contingent stepped up. Running back Zach Skeen had 13 carries for 113 yards, including six carries for 10 yards or more. He had eight carries for 82 yards in the first half.
Brewer, who finished 12-of-22 for 175 yards and three touchdowns, was unable to find Neal in the first 24 minutes, but spread his passing around to Skeen, Jake Roh, Josh Aganon and Buzzard to help the Firebird offense flow. Roh had four, first-half catches for 38 yards.
While Neal was unable to put up big numbers - he had four carries for 29 yards and one catch for 52 yards, he was certainly efficient with his touches, getting three touchdowns.
"We have a ton of weapons and a lot of playmakers on offense that can get the job done" added Skeen.