Ty Furr lifted his team through the second half before lifting the city trophy, leading the Coconino Panthers to a 12-10 victory over the Flagstaff Eagles on Friday in the Walkup Skydome in front of a raucous crowd.
After committing three turnovers in the second half, the quarterback kept his head straight to help the Panthers avoid suffering a 1-9 season and win the crosstown rivalry game for the first time since 2014, the first year Jeremiah Smith took over the program as the head coach.
"It got in my head," Furr said about the turnovers. "Coming off to the sidelines, Coach Smith was there to pick me up and he brought me back in this game and that's how we got this win. My teammates were there, too -- they are always there."
Bryce Wright brought down a high-flying, on-point 35-yard catch with 19 seconds remaining to put his team three yards away from the goal line. That was exactly one play after Coconino converted on fourth down with a 10-yard pass to Kyle Casados, who finished with five catches for 48 yards.
"It felt like an eternity, but it was a great pass by him in a clutch moment. It was exciting and eventually got us that W," said Wright, who finished with three catches for 67 yards. "I dropped a pass earlier and to come back from it is huge. Ty threw such a perfect pass, it was kind of hard not to come down with it."
After an offsides call on Flagstaff, Furr clawed his way over the line with just two seconds remaining for the game-winning, 1-yard touchdown.
"Coach Smith called a great game, I got this win on him. He did a great job that last drive. I knew in my head this was the last chance we had and I really just had to have us play the game and have fun doing it," Furr said of the final drive.
Flagstaff, which just missed entering the end zone courtesy of a questionable call that instead resulted in a fumble, pushed its lead to 10-6 when Oscar Castruita kicked a 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter with 4:13 left. A minute and nine seconds later, Xavier Sheffield intercepted Furr and set the Eagles up at midfield.
"They're great to have," Smith said of getting another city championship. "When you come into this game, everything goes out the window, the record goes out the window and you are in for a dog fight, and that's exactly what it was."
The Eagles, who ended their season at 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the Grand Canyon Region, struggled to control the game despite taking a 7-6 lead into halftime. It didn't help that Flagstaff quarterback Henry Tagle left the game with a possible concussion in the first quarter after Kade Owen hit him while getting a pass off.
Shane Lusk replaced Tagle as the signal caller, and he and Lucas Salcido ran the ball down field and eventually into the paydirt, completing the nine-play, 37-yard drive with Salcido breaking the line for an 8-yard touchdown. Salcido led the Eagles with 88 yards on 19 carries as he returned from a shoulder injury to play his final high school game.
Tagle reentered the game one drive later, throwing an interception on his first play before leaving the game for good.
"When Henry went back in and threw that pick, we should have just ran the ball," said Eagles co-head coach Paul Wolf. "He went out there with a concussion and we didn't know he had a concussion; he didn't know what he was even doing out there. That was on us, that was our mistake -- it should have been 7-0 at halftime and it's a different ball game then."
Coconino (2-8, 1-5) got on the board when Furr broke several tackles for a rushing touchdown on a third-and-7 play just before the half. Rushing for 60 yards on 16 carries and both of his team's scores, Furr added 191 yards through the air, completing 16 of 26 passes.
Salcido won the John Ply Memorial Award, and Emilio Esquivel garnered the Bill Epperson Award.
Looking to cap off a 15-play, 73-yard drive, Josh Morrow attempted to push his way into the end zone from the 1-yard line and take a 14-6 lead. Holding Morrow up in a pile, Coconino suddenly raced out of the back of the end zone with the ball and nearly reached midfield before Flagstaff chased it down.
"That was the ballgame -- he crossed the plane, then they said they didn’t know where the ball was," Wolf said of the officials' explanation. "They should have called it dead, it should have been the next down. You don’t just give the ball to them. They didn't know where the ball was, so then it's a dead ball. They were the worst refs I’ve been around in my life, that's all I can say; we have had three or four games with those guys this year."
While Coconino fumbled the ball back to Flagstaff five plays later -- each side ended the night with three turnovers -- it was the final time Flagstaff drove that deep into Coconino territory.
"Those seniors have worked hard, the team worked hard for so long, and I am just glad they persevered," Smith said. "They did everything I asked of them tonight, and that was to never give up, never quite, keep fighting every down, and every down they did it."