Despite suffering their first loss of the season, little has changed for the Flagstaff Eagles as they enter the stretch run of Grand Canyon Region games.
Slipping to No. 15 in the 4A Conference, the 5-1 Eagles still control their own destiny as they seek their first playoff berth since 2007. Sitting 2-0 in the region, with No. 20 Lee Williams (4-2) arriving on Friday, the loss to No. 18 Thunderbird only served as a bump in the road.
“It was non-region and we played a good team,” Eagles co-head coach Paul Wolf said of the Chiefs. “That quarterback and receiver are legit, their whole team is a good team. We had our shots, we were up at halftime and we blew it at the end with a lot of mistakes.”
After dominating time of possession in the first half, Flagstaff’s offense slowed and Thunderbird’s passing attack rolled down the field. The combination of quarterback Andy Wittenwyler and receiver Kain Ream, sitting inside the state’s top 10 in passing and receiving yards respectively, led the Chiefs to 34 points.
“First half, we drove the ball. We didn't get a score, but we controlled the ball,” Wolf said, with Flagstaff up 11-0 until Thunderbird scored in the final seconds of the half. “The second half, it is three-and-out, we jump offsides three times in a row, just dumb things like that.”
With 71 points allowed to the passing attacks of Thunderbird and Bradshaw Mountain the past two weeks, Flagstaff hopes to bounce back after allowing just 39 points in the first four weeks combined and will see a much different offense than it did a week ago.
Lee Williams struggled last week when playing in town at Coconino, with the Panthers’ defense holding the Volunteers to just 14 points. Averaging 16.8 points per game while allowing 16 defensively, half of the Volunteers' games have been decided by 12 points or less. Passing sparingly, Lee Williams attempted just 10 passes as quarterback Andrew Herrera completed three for 28 yards. With neither side producing much in the Volunteers’ 14-7 win, Lee Williams managed less than 100 yards on the ground as a team due to Herrera’s struggles.
Running backs Donnie Simms and Paul Giglio rushed for 54 and 45 yards respectively, but Simms broke his leg against the Panthers and is out for the rest of the season.
Lee Williams won its city title with a 38-0 win against Kingman and a 21-20 victory over Kingman Academy, 3A and 2A schools respectively, as part of a three-game win streak to start the year. Prior to last week’s win against Coconino, Lee Williams was outscored 59-6 in a pair of region losses to Mingus Union (38-0) and Prescott (21-6).
“They played Prescott tough, Coconino played them tough, they are a decent team, too,” Wolf said. “They played us tough down there last year.”
Giglio leads the Volunteers with 297 yards on 53 rushing attempts, with 165 yards coming earlier this season against Kingman Academy, as well as 11 catches for 161 yards.
Having seen the struggles Coconino and Lee Williams had against one another, with multiple turnovers from each side coupled with penalties stalling drives, Wolf said Flagstaff must clean up its similar issues from last week’s second half. Additionally, an illness has run through the Eagles in the past two weeks, leaving the team short on its depth with many players running high fevers and missing time.