The Cactus Cobras struck fast, hard and early in a blowout win over Flagstaff at Cromer Stadium.
The Eagles weren’t tricked in the Halloween match-up, but it definitely wasn’t a treat. The Cobras dominated and won easily 45-6. Flagstaff falls to 3-2 overall on the season, but remains in the hunt for a 4A Grand Canyon Region title with two weeks left in the regular season.
"I'm proud of our guys for sticking in there and fighting it out," Eagles head coach Todd Hanley said. "I definitely think we could have played them a lot closer than we did, but it didn't happen. ... We got a two-game stretch and we can still win the region. Not many teams can come off a game like this and have the region in sight."
It was all Cactus early. The visiting Cobras jumped out to a blistering start and a 45-0 halftime lead.
The Cobras, who are easily in the conversation for a top ranking in the 4A Conference or even a spot in the Open Division playoff when Tuesday's power rankings are released, were just a better team Saturday.
Using a combination of quarterbacks Will Galvan, who started, and Chase Jasinski, a sophomore transfer from 6A Liberty, the Cobras offense struck quick on all their first-half scoring drives.
Each of the five scoring drives by the Cactus offense took less than three minutes and one took less than a minute after Galvan hit Chris Thomas Jr. for a 72-yard strike down the middle of the field in the second quarter.
That score was particularly back-breaking for Flagstaff, which had forced a third and long from deep inside Cactus territory. But, as it seemed to happen the whole first half, as soon as Flagstaff had a glimmer of a groove the Cobras struck back.
About a minute and a half of game time later, Flagstaff suffered another three and out inside its own territory. The Cobras blocked the ensuing punt and got the scoop and score to force the running clock in the second half.
Flagstaff actually started the game with a solid opening drive, taking advantage of an early offsides penalty by Cactus.
The Eagles got as far as the Cactus 49-yard line before quarterback Morgan Bewley made a poor choice trying to escape the pass rush, resulting in a loss of yards, and then tossed an incompletion on the next play with the rush in his face.
Cactus needed just under two minutes to score on the ensuing drive as Galvan orchestrated a clean set of plays and capped it off with a 16-yard TD pass.
Flagstaff later had a pair of chances in Cactus territory to get on the board in the third quarter, but neither time scored. The Cactus defense, led by a strong front seven, consistently shut the Eagles down.
Eagles running back Luis Jaramillo was held to just 66 yards on 23 carries -- his lowest yardage in a fully played game this season and second straight game under 100 rushing yards -- as he struggled to find any running room.
It took the Eagles until the 7:00 minute mark of the fourth quarter to stop the shutout. Backup quarterback Bodie Maier orchestrated a solid drive, completing a few passes to wideout Ryan Tagle to set up a seven-yard score for Jaramillo.
While there were plenty of woes on offense -- missed chances, dropped passes, poor blocking -- Tagle did about as much as he could to keep the offense afloat with seven catches for 133 yards.
Bewley went just 9-for-17 passing for 117 yards but was able to keep possession with zero interceptions thrown.
"We had guys open down the field all game and we just couldn't come up with the catches," Hanley said.
Saturday marked the second year in a row the Cobras have made the drive up Interstate 17 and routed a Flagstaff-based team at Cromer Stadium. A season ago the Cobras beat Coconino 53-14 in a thumping against the Panthers -- who of course went on to win the Grand Canyon Region title that season.
The Eagles (3-2, 3-1 4A Grand Canyon) get Lee Williams (3-2, 2-2 4A Grand Canyon) next week, in a game that will keep the Eagles in contention for a Grand Canyon Region crown or squash their hopes. If the Eagles win, the crosstown game against Coconino on Nov. 13 will be for the region title.
Friday’s kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Cromer Stadium.