Coming down the stretch of the season, Coconino High School finds itself in an undesirable position midway through 4A Conference, Grand Canyon Region play.
The Panthers have avoided blowouts as of late, but have been following a familiar script: Gain a lead, hang around throughout the night, but lose control in the end due to mistakes and an inability to get the offense going.
“It’s those little things. Bad snaps, false starts, holding penalties, all those little things,” said Panthers head coach Jeremiah Smith. “The thing we're focusing on this week is when we get into those crucial situations, just know your job. Know what we're doing and execute.”
The 32nd-ranked team in 4A, the Panthers (1-5, 0-3 Grand Canyon), having lost five straight, will be heading down to Prescott Valley to face No. 33 Bradshaw Mountain (1-5, 1-1) in a battle of Grand Canyon teams near the bottom of the region.
“They're sitting in the same boat we are. They’ve played a lot of close games, their defense is fast, they rally up, but we’ve got to contain the line of scrimmage offensively and defensively,” said Smith, whose team has had three games decided by seven points or less.
Leading the Panthers at quarterback will be junior Ty Furr, who has missed parts of the last four games due to an injury. Furr is healthy and ready to play, according to Smith, who added that “(Furr) is coming along really well, he’s getting his feet wet, getting back after it. He’s playing hard and ready to go.”
Last week, with backup quarterback Bryce Wright struggling and the crowd chanting "We want Ty" as halftime approached, Coconino brought back Furr in the third quarter with the hopes to spark some momentum against No. 21 Lee Williams. Furr managed to scamper for the Panthers' lone touchdown of the game and give his team a lead, but it was not enough in the 14-7 loss.
Bradshaw Mountain, which won their first game of the season last week against region foe Mingus Union, is riding some momentum after snapping a five-game losing streak in dominant fashion. The Bears, under the direction of a new coach, managed to score 45 points while only allowing 16 against 18th-ranked Mingus.
“They are high on life right now, they're playing good ball and they've played good football -- (they've) just played some pretty tough teams," Smith said of Bradshaw Mountain, which has also played three one-score games. "It’s definitely gonna be a challenge."
Another blow that the Panthers endured in last week’s defeat was the loss of running back Kyle Sauer. Sauer sustained an injury against Lee Williams and will remain on the sidelines this week.
The Panthers make the 90-mile drive south Friday afternoon. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.