Holding the Lee Williams Volunteers scoreless for nearly 44 minutes Friday night, the Flagstaff Eagles defense led the way to keeping a perfect Grand Canyon Region record intact.
Aided by 23 unanswered points to start the game, No. 15 Flagstaff improved to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the region with the 23-15 victory against No. 20 Lee Williams (4-3, 1-3) in the Walkup Skydome.
Putting together a dominant opening half, the Eagles allowed the Volunteers to convert just one first down on their five first-half possessions, with two ending in punts and two resulting in fumble recoveries for Flagstaff.
Flagstaff opened the game with a seven-play, 66-yard drive to put up six points about four minutes into the contest. Facing a fourth-and-6 after a false start penalty, Eagles quarterback Henry Tagle rolled to his right and found Lucas Salcido open in the flats for the first down.
Rather than settling for the conversion and extension of the drive, Salcido took off up the right sideline for a 41-yard touchdown.
“As things open up, the defensive end bit and I hit him on the little pass,” Tagle said. “He made a great play juking all those people out. We score on the first drive and that carries throughout the game. That momentum really helped us.”
Set up at their own 20-yard line after Oscar Castruita put the kickoff in the end zone for a touchback, the Volunteers fumbled their first snap, with Flagstaff's Josh Morrow falling on the loose ball. Set up at the 19-yard line, the Eagles settled for a 28-yard field goal by Castruita and a two-possession lead just nine minutes into the game.
Another mistake by the Volunteers led to the Eagles’ second touchdown of the game after the sides went scoreless for more than 15 minutes of play.
With Lee Williams quarterback Andrew Herrera escaping pressure in the pocket, Flagstaff’s defense kept pursuing and Morrow forced a fumble as the quarterback looked to throw downfield. Michael Becenti fell on the ball with 1:08 remaining in the half, and Tagle cashed it in two plays later as he found Kaden Doucette open to his right for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
Tagle finished the game 10-of-14 passing with roughly 160 yards, with two scores and four completions of more than 20 yards as Flagstaff’s run game was mostly kept quiet. Salcido finished with 42 yards on the ground to go with 57 in the air, while Morrow added 36 rushing yards.
Colton Bond, coming down with a pair of long passes, finished with three catches for 58 yards and Xavier Sheffield’s lone reception went for 27 yards one play after Bond converted a second-and-24 in the fourth quarter.
Flagstaff’s defense finally allowed Lee Williams to cross midfield during the second half’s opening drive, with Herrera’s legs doing much of the work for the Volunteers’ offense. However, the drive died out after crossing the 50, with Lee Williams punting on both of its third-quarter drives.
“We didn’t want to show a whole lot; we have Mingus next week and that’s a huge game,” said Eagles co-head coach Paul Wolf. “I didn’t want to show them a lot of my stuff. We just got a little too lackadaisical there at the end.”
After Salcido broke through for a 5-yard touchdown run with 8:15 remaining, Lee Williams answered with its first score as Herrera found tight end Edmond Ashton wide open on the left side of the field for a 37-yard touchdown.
Flagstaff drained another two minutes off the clock with its next drive, but Lee Williams scored again on a 1-yard run by Herrera with just seconds remaining before an onside kick attempt rolled out of bounds, allowing the Eagles to end the game.
Now with three games to play, Flagstaff sits as the lone unbeaten team in the Grand Canyon region with the 3-0 mark. With Mingus Union defeating Prescott Friday night, Flagstaff will be playing for the region lead in Cottonwood next week.
“We have got one game at a time, we have got to beat those guys next week,” Wolf said. “We ain't looking no further than that.”