Bagdad football blasts Gilbert Christian, heads to state championship

Bagdad High's football team secured a spot in next weekend's Division 6 state championship game, routing Gilbert Christian 66-34 in the tournament's semifinals Saturday afternoon at Shadow Mountain in Phoenix.

The third-seeded Sultans will move on to battle No. 5 Heber Mogollon for the title trophy. Mogollon upset top-seeded Pima, 58-48, in Saturday's other semifinal later in the evening.

Kickoff for the D-6 state championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at Shadow Mountain High.

"It was a good victory for us," Bagdad coach Dalton Mills said of defeating Gilbert Christian and advancing. "We're excited."

Thanks to Saturday's win, the Sultans remained undefeated at 9-0 and eliminated Gilbert Christian, which suffered its only loss of the fall to finish at 10-1.

Last year, Bagdad upset D-6 power Mogollon, 25-24, in the state quarterfinals but later fell in the semifinals to Pima.

Mogollon (10-1 record this fall) last won a state title in 2008 when it defeated Pima, 66-34. Bagdad, on the other hand, has not played for a championship in the eight-man game since 2000 when it lost 50-8 to St. David.

Versus Gilbert Christian, the stronger, deeper Sultans amassed 411 total yards of offense, including 302 yards rushing and 109 yards passing.

"We really wore them down, and they were not ready for the physical play we had," Mills said. "Their up-tempo approach went to a slow-tempo approach (in the second half)."

At one point in the final half, Bagdad led 42-18, but didn't let up on its way to the blowout.

Casey Jeans guided the Sultans' rushing attack with 220 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. He also returned a punt 37 yards for a TD.

Justin Pacheco aided in the effort on the ground with 59 yards and a pair of TDs.

Other significant contributors for Bagdad included Brendan Garza, who had a 19-yard rushing TD, and James Loveall, who caught three balls for 113 yards.

On defense, Garza recorded two sacks, while Loveall hauled in two interceptions, one of which he returned for a score.