Willow Canyon Shuts Out Tolleson

The Wildcats remain undefeated, blank Tolleson 20-0

The Willow Canyon Wildcats, under the direction of head coach Michael Hudnutt, came into town to face the Tolleson Wolverines, led by Rich Wellbrock. With both teams looking to improve their record to 2-0 on the young season, this game appeared to remain a battle throughout.


A scoreless first quarter ended with a 23 yard loss by Tolleson after junior QB Darnell Woods could not get his hands on a high snap.


The second quarter began with a punt from senior WR Keifer Fields. Willow Canyon would run the ball three straight plays and would get a first down. A mishandled snap by junior QB Trey Clarida was recovered by senior Wolverine LB Anthony Vargas.


Woods would get two more opportunities to throw the ball on the ensuing drive, but a deflection by senior DL Justin Jones would bring the drive to a halt.


On second and 11 of Willow Canyon's next drive, sophomore WR Adrian Drew dropped a sure touchdown pass from Clarida in the end zone. The next play resulted in a sack by LBs Damon Brown, a junior, and Tavish Pettit, a senior. That gave the Wildcats a fourth and 16, which they elected to go for. Senior DB Daniel Flores made Coach Hudnutt regret the decision by sacking Clarida again. The Wolverines forced a turnover on downs.


The great stop from the defense was wasted, however, on the next series, with another three-and-out from the Tolleson offense.


After a false start penalty cost them five yards, Willow Canyon would gain 34 yards on the next four plays, all runs to the right side by senior RB Joey Cota. Two more Cota runs resulted in another 10 yards and a first down at the Tolleson 33. After another false start penalty, sophomore RB Charles James took a toss to the right side, but fumbled the ball. Senior Tolleson LB Oscar Alvirez recovered it, giving his offense the ball back.


A nine yard sweep by Fields, coupled with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Wildcats, gave the Wolverines great field position, four yards into enemy territory. Senior RB Tim Hullaby would kill yet another Tolleson drive by fumbling the ball. Drew would recover the loose ball and run with it to the 12 yard line of the Wolverines.


With 58 seconds left in the half, Willow Canyon went to work. Two Cota runs set up a third and five from seven yards out. An incomplete pass from Clarida meant a field goal attempt. Tolleson would be called for an offsides penalty, giving the Wildcats a second chance. With 8.2 seconds left in the first half, Clarida would find Jones for the six yard touchdown pass. After the PAT, Willow Canyon led 7-0 going into the half.


The Wildcats would receive the ball to begin the second half. Starting from their own 20, Willow Canyon would drive to the Wolverines' six yard line before imploding. On first and goal, senior LB Damon Brown blew through his gap and stopped Cota for no gain. A touchdown run by Cota was then negated because of a holding call. On second and goal (again), this time from the 16, Clarida would have a nice 13 yard run called back because of another holding call. The Wildcats' third second and goal attempt would not be charming after Brown and Flores sacked Clarida for a loss of nine. A ten yard draw play from James was not nearly enough on third and goal from the 35, and the next incomplete pass to Drew gave Tolleson the ball back.


Two nice runs from junior RB Eric Saenz netted the Wolverines 11 yards, but a negative run by Saenz, and a sack of and a fumble from Woods put Tolleson back on their 27 yard line. Fourth and 20 meant another punt from the home team.


Starting at midfield, the Wildcats would hold on to the ball through the end of the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Torres would gain a first down on a run that advanced Willow Canyon to the Wolverine 25. Senior FB Cody Taylor then took the next handoff 20 yards up the field from the left side and was not brought down until he reached the five. Two plays later, Clarida would sneak behind his lineman from four yards out for the score. The missed PAT attempt made the score 13-0 in favor of the Wildcats with 10:33 left in the game.


On the kickoff, junior DB Jon Ortega walloped Tolleson's return man. With that hit, Ortega won the award for the hit of the night.


After two Hullaby runs, the Wolverines faced third and six from their own 44. Woods then came up big with a 26 yard pass completion to Fields. Another Woods to Fields pass on second and seven moved the ball to the Wildcats' 18 yard line, but a penalty against the offense moved the ball back 10 yards. An illegal motion penalty on the next play moved them back to the 33. From there, Jones sniffed out a screen to Hullaby and stuffed him right at the line of scrimmage. On third and 13, senior LB Robert Ford sacked Woods for a 10 yard loss. Facing fourth and 23, Flores was brought in for a play at QB, but an incomplete pass intended for senior WR Carlton Hooks turned the ball over on downs to Willow Canyon.


Cota got the next hand off and exploded up the right side again, this time for 28 yards, to the Tolleson 29. Five plays and another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Tolleson later, Torres would scatter in from 11 yards for the final touchdown of the game. The converted extra point attempt gave Willow Canyon a 20-0 lead with 2:34 left.


Tolleson would fumble a snap on their next possesion, giving the Wildcats the ball and the game after Jones recovered it.


Bottom line


This was a sloppy game on both sides of the ball, but the team with the fewest mistakes won out. Willow Canyon's defense was disruptive all night, not letting Woods get into a rhythm. They'll need more efforts like the one they displayed against Tolleson to compete in their region.


As for Tolleson, too many mistakes made by the offense stalled them all night, wasting a good defensive effort. Their road does not get any easier, with upcoming games against Gilbert Highland and Peoria Centennial. Correcting those mistakes will be key for the Wolverines.


Game balls


TE and DL Justin Jones had a heck of a night, with a touchdown catch, a deflection, and a fumble recovery. Jones played very well.


Not much to choose from, but I'll give Tolleson's game ball to Eric Saenz. He was their most consistent player throughout the night.     

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