PAGE -- The best season for Page High School football in 34 years came to an end Friday night in a state quarterfinal game that nearly went down to the wire at Cyclone Field.
The No. 4-seeded Sand Devils' rally from a 28-8 deficit in the fourth quarter was stopped only by the clock in a 28-22 loss to five-seed Valley Christian (Chandler). Page finished 10-2, its best mark since the 1984 team went 11-1 and also lost in the 3A Conference quarterfinals.
"Our motto this year was 'Finish the Fight,' and that's exactly what we did," said second-year Sand Devils coach Mitchell Stephens. "We just ran out of time late."
Valley Christian, 22-15 losers to Page Sept. 14, brought a much deeper squad north this time and built a commanding lead on the arm of quarterback Peyton Hanzal. The 6-foot-5 senior, used sparingly in the first meeting, threw for two scores and 265 yards.
But it was a Hanzal fumble that re-energized a Page team that had succumbed to a couple long second-half drives culminating in scores. Just two minutes after Robert Smith's 5-yard TD run drew the Sand Devils to within 14 points, Page recovered inside the red zone.
With 4:13 to play, Smith found Justin Salabiye on a 3-yard touchdown pass, one of five fourth-down conversions by Page. Smith ran in the two-point conversion and Page had new life.
"We came back and battled," Stephens said. "I'm so proud of this group of guys. They're special."
Hanzal closed it out by directing an 11-play drive. He had faced a fourth-and-one from midfield, but calmly connected with Tanner Canfield on a 5-yard completion to sustain the drive. The coffin nail turned out to be a 19-yard completion to sophomore Andrew Hanzal on third down from the Page 37 with 90 seconds left.
Valley Christian (9-3) will meet top-seeded Northwest Christian (Phoenix) in next Friday night's semifinals at North Canyon High in Phoenix.
Hanzal completed passes to eight different receivers, with Matt McCreight catching six for 82 drive-sustaining yards and one score. McCreight missed the first Page game.
"They had some guys back," Stephens said. "We knew what they were going to do on both sides of the ball. We knew that they would have a hard time running on us. We knew they were going to throw it, and we knew they were going to send a lot of pressure on defense. It is what it is. They made plays when they needed to."
Page, which set a new school record for points in a season, made the game's first big play. Senior back Kele Meredith burst 60 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Meredith played through injury and went on to run 29 times for 178 yards to top the 2,000-yard mark for 2018.
Meredith likely will go down as Page's most prolific rusher in its 60-year program, accumulating 4,810 yards in three seasons with 47 touchdowns, 43 of them on the ground.
Native Texan Stephens, whose teams are now 11-1 at home, said he plans to return for 2019: "That's the plan, man. They haven't run me out yet."
The Flagstaff Youth Hockey Association 10U team took first place at the My Hockey Gopher State Veteran’s Cup in Minneapolis, Minnesota, over the first weekend of November.
The Flagstaff Northstars went 3-1 in the three-day tournament, outscoring opponents 21-10 in four games. The Flagstaff-based squad went 3-1 in group play to earn second place en route to beating the then-undefeated Illinois-based Hoffman Estates Timberwolves 4-2 in the finals.