The Flagstaff Eagles took off early in the first half and survived nose-diving in the second, hanging on to beat the Youngker Roughriders on Friday in Buckeye and improve to 2-0.
Using the ground-and-pound game, the Eagles jumped out to a 21-0 lead courtesy of scoring on their first three drives of the 4A Conference matchup. Youngker, looking to avoid losing their home opener, threatened as Flagstaff struggled with turnovers, but couldn’t close the gap as the Eagles walked away with the 21-20 victory.
Lucas Salcido got the early scoring going for the Eagles, who controlled the start of the game with the run and solid defense. The senior back took his first touch, and the team’s first play, and turned it into a 78-yard touchdown.
Turnovers, however, almost doomed the Eagles, who ended the game with three fumbles and one interception.
Capitalizing on two of Flagstaff’s turnovers, Youngker started gaining momentum just as halftime approached. With just 30 seconds to go before the break, Roughriders quarterback Shane Cruz put his team on the board after the slow start after a Salcido fumble, and from there Youngker turned things around.
Needing a big stop with just minutes left in the game, Flagstaff got a sack by Josh Thomas that helped keep Youngker from completing the comeback. Thomas, who put his team up 14-0 on a touchdown run from three yards out, recorded his sack on third down, and the defense did the rest on fourth and long.
Playing in the stifling Valley heat, Flagstaff got its own forced fumble that Colton Bond came up with in the fourth quarter, as the Eagles defense backed up the stumbling offense through the final two quarters.
Going into halftime with a 21-6 lead, Eagles quarterback Henry Tagle connected with fellow junior Xavier Sheffield for an 80-yard touchdown pass, but that would be the end of the offensive production. Tagle's next throw fell into the hands of a Roughrider as the quarterback's two attempts went ended in polar opposite results.
A blocked extra point on Youngker’s first score saved the day. Turning the ball over on consecutive possessions toward the end of the first half, Flagstaff allowed Youngker (1-2) to breathe life into their game, but came up with the block that basically decided the game.
Youngker came out of the half and started to threaten, as the team's leading rusher found the end zone to open up the second-half scoring. With the rushing touchdown, Youngker's Greg Dotstry, who entered Friday's game with five rushing touchdowns through two games, cut the deficit to 21-12. Flagstaff fumbled on the next possession, and Youngker’s quarterback eventually turned it into a keeper touchdown from a yard out on third down to make it 21-20 with the completion of a pass for a two-point conversion.
The Roughriders almost turned the fumble into an immediate touchdown, but it was called back on a penalty.
Flagstaff returns home to host Mohave and open the Grand Canyon Region slate next week for a 7:30 p.m. game in the Walkup Skydome.