4A Championship: Moon Valley v. Cactus

<STRONG>Don't call it a comeback....</STRONG>

Moon Valley 45   Cactus 34


First off, I would like to congratulate both teams for playing a fun and exciting game and for having awesome seasons. I never expected the game to turn out like it did.


1st Half: The game opened up with Cactus going 3 and out but on Moon Valley's 1st possession, Cactus forced a Chris McGaha fumble and recovered in scoring range at the 35. A few short runs by RB Richard Morris and a few short completions got them into FG range and Ezra Ricks hit a 21 yard FG to put Cactus up 3-0. The lead could have been 7-0 but a Jonathan Tobin to Jordan Flores TD was called back because of a false start.


Neither team was able to get much going in the 1st quarter as the rain started to pour and the field conditions worsened. The quarter ended with Cactus still ahead by 3 but with the ball and moving after a 12 yard Tobin to Flores pass.


The 1st play of the 2nd quarter saw Morris race 27 yards for a TD and after the PAT make the score 10-0. But Moon Valley would fumble the ball on the 1st play with cactus DB Josh Butler recovering the ball at the 24 yard line. The Moon Valley defense held tough and forced Ezra Ricks in for another FG. He hit the 44 yarder to make the score Cactus 13 and Moon valley 0.


Moon Valley finally got on the scoreboard when Brian Wriston found Chris McGaha for a 25 yard TD. The score was set up on a 52 yard Wriston to McGaha bomb 3 plays earlier. The PAT was blocked by Kenny White to make the score 13-6 in favor of Cactus.


The next 3 series were all Cactus. The Cobras went on a 13 play drive that was led by Morris who had runs of 25, 18 and 21 in the series and the drive was capped by a 7 yard Tobin run off of a beautiful play action fake to make the score 20-6. The Cactus D forced a 3 and out and then Butler returned the punt 70 yards for a TD to pile on to the score at 27-6. And with 49 seconds left DB David Pollack stopped a Moon Valley scoring threat when he picked off a Wriston pass. A good run by Morris and a face mask penalty moved Cactus near the goal line and Tobin found Flores for a 4 yard TD to make the score 34-6 in favor of Cactus and seemingly out of reach.


Bottom Line for 1st Half: I think Cactus out schemed Moon Valley in the 1st half. Cactus' spread offense forced Moon Valley to get out of the 50 front that they like to play. They were forced to go to 4 down linemen and 2 linebackers with the 5 DBs all playing in man coverage. Moon Valley uses a very aggressive defense and tells the DEs to rush up field and get after the QB. Cactus knew this going into the game and used the quickness of the DEs against Moon Valley. What Cactus would do was use the WRs to run off the DBs and then the OL would not even block the DEs because they essentially would take themselves out of the play by running up field. That then left 5 OL on 2 DTs and 2 LBs with a 230 pound running back with a head of steam. This is why Richard Morris rushed for 117 yards on 12 carries in the 1st half. This scheme coupled with a bunch of turnovers saw Cactus up 34-6 at the half.


2nd Half: It did not look pretty early on for the Rockets as Wriston was intercepted for the 2nd time, this time by Chris Johnson. But it appeared that the Moon Valley coaches made some half time adjustments and were dedicated to stopping Morris. They forced a 3 and out and then the comeback started. Wriston threw a lob and McGaha jumped over two defenders to grab the ball and race 57 yards for their 1st of 6 scores in the 2nd half. The 2 point conversion was no good and the score was now 34-12.


Moon Valley DE Isaiah Smart recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Wriston wasted no time in hitting Tsar Johnson for a 34 yard score. The 2 point conversion by Jeff Jones made the score 34-20 and the Rockets were back in the ball game and had all of the momentum.


The Moon Valley D continued to play tough and forced another 3 and out. The Cactus defense answered by intercepting Wriston for the 3rd time but hey fumbled away their opportunity on the 1st play of the drive. The recovery again was in Cactus territory and Wriston found Johnson on the 3rd play of the drive for a 24 yard score. The 2 point was no good and the score was now 34-36 Cactus.


The end of the 3rd quarter and beginning of the 4th quarter was filled with turnovers and special teams errors by both teams. Cactus seemed ready to score for the 1st time in the 2nd half. They marched the length of the field only to fumble away the ball in the red zone. Then Cactus seemed to finally catch a break. Cactus punted the ball away and on the return the ball hit a Rocket defender and was recovered by Cactus in scoring position. But again the bad luck hit and a bad snap on the FG try kept Cactus from scoring. Moon Valley seized the opportunity again. A god run by Hain and a pass interference call moved them across the 50 and Wriston found Johnson again on a 34 yard TD pass to get Moon Valley within two. Wriston found Hain for the tying 2 point conversion.


Another turnover by Cactus led to a Rocket score. Tobin fumbled the ball on the 1st play and 4 plays and a 27 yard Mike Devincinzo FG later and Moon Valley had the 1st lead of the game at 37-34. Cactus was never able to get the ball moving and the Rockets simply needed to run out the clock. They fed Matt Hain the ball on 4 consecutive plays and saw him gain 4, 17, 2 and 20 yards for a TD to clinch the game. A 2 point conversion put the game out of reach at 45-34 and a last ditch effort to score by Cactus was stopped on a McGaha INT.


Bottom Line: I really don't like using football clichés but this game really was "The Tale of Two Halves." If you would have told me before the game that Moon Valley would only 6 points in the 1st half I would call you crazy. Then if at halftime you would have told me that with Moon Valley being down 34-6, the Cactus offense would not score again and the Rockets would score 39 unanswered points in the 2nd half, I would call you dumb and crazy. Moon Valley's defense adjusted well, the DEs stayed home and they shut down the Cactus run game. Moon Valley's hard luck with turnovers shifted to cactus and the Rockets were able to capitalize with scores in the second half. I commend the Moon Valley players for not getting down on themselves and believing they could come back and win. Also, I commend Cactus, not many people expected the Cobras to make it this far after all of the losses to graduation they had. What an awesome job by the players, Coach Fetkenhier and his staff.


Game Balls: Player of the Game goes to Matt Hain. He was sensational again on both sides of the ball. He rushed for 103 yards on 15 carries, scored the game sealing TD and the game tying 2 point conversion. He made up for a fumble of his own by recovering one in the 4th quarter. On defense, he was all over the field collecting many tackles for a loss and breaking up a ton of passes. WR Tsar Johnson made up for some 1st half drops to score 3 TDs in the 2nd half (a title game record). WR Chris McGaha caught 7 passes for 137 yards and 2 TDs along with grabbing an interception late in the 4th quarter. For Cactus, Jr RB Richard Morris was spectacular in the 1st half and ended the day with 140 yards on 20 carries.

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