Pre-game Notes: Many would see this match up not as exciting as the "big" games and yet they would miss what makes high school football great. Sunnyslope pulled off the biggest upset of the year, early this season, in defeating highly ranked Tucson Palo Verde 14-7 in the Old Pueblo. Palo Verde, with highly touted WR Adam Hall, ran into a determined Viking team that was over matched in just about every area and with a great defensive effort held Adam Hall way below his game average. This win keeps on giving power points and might just be the thing that gets Slope into the playoffs. The Vikings are lead by sophomore QB Ben Maraz, senior WR Fabian Hill, and senior lineman John Capriotti. The Vikings enter the game with a 5-3 record.
Apollo's Head Coach Zack Threadgill (former Apollo QB) really touts his senior QB DJ Adrian, who can play 8 positions and is their best all around athlete. Senior RB Vann Hunt gets most of the carries and senior WR Alic Dale, more of a basketball player, has elevated his game according to Coach Threadgill. Sunnyslope is rated 16th and Apollo 17th in the 4A Division I power point ratings, so this game is big for both teams. (Top 16 teams make the playoffs).
Recap: Due to a number of injuries Sunnyslope finds itself starting their JV QB who tried to understand the no huddle offense in one week. QB starter Ben Maraz was not supposed to play because of a sore knee. Apollo took advantage of some Sunnyslope offensive miscues and scored on two field goals by freshman K Jason Arollo to take a 6-0 first quarter lead. Sunnyslope cannot move the ball and their passing game is non-existent for the first half. Apollo adds a touchdown midway through the second quarter as QB DJ Adrian connects with TE Jose Torres on a 21-yard pass to make the halftime score 13-0 Apollo.
At the half Coach Tim Mayfield and the players looked to QB Ben Maraz to take command in the second half to get the offense rolling. The Vikings began to move the ball but would continue to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and dropped passes. It wasn't until 3:15 left in the game that a successful drive began for Sunnyslope as the Vikings began at their own 38 and in 11 plays scored on a Ben Maraz four yard pass to RB Mark Jaycox to make the score 13-7 Apollo.
Sunnyslope gets the ball again with about 1 minute left and drives down the field. With one second left RB Jesse McGrath catches a 4-yard pass to tie the score at 13. The extra point is missed and the game goes into overtime. Sunnyslope takes possession first in overtime and scores as Maraz finds RB Preston Morrow in the end zone for the score. Apollo fails to score on their turn and Sunnyslope comes from behind to win 20-13 in a great win for the Vikings.
Bottom line: On this Halloween night Sunnyslope gave the home crowd more "tricks" than "treats" until the last three minutes of regulation when the Vikings dug deep and pulled out an exciting victory. It is a reminder that "playing with heart" is what makes football so great. Sunnyslope was watching their playoff hopes go down the drain and then lightning struck with three touchdowns. Apollo had control for most of the game but failure to stay focused and execute failed the Hawks in this game.
Game ball: No question it's sophomore QB Ben Maraz. This story has Hollywood ending all over it. Not practicing all week due to injury, not expecting to play, the team turning to him at the half for leadership and a miracle happens. He throws for 22 out of 38 attempts for 291 yards and 3 touchdowns, all in one half of play! When seniors look to a sophomore to save Senior Night you know he is one special player.
Up Next: Sunnyslope (6-3) travels to Thunderbird to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Apollo (4-6) hosts Sandra Day O'Connor.