Originally Published: October 27, 2016 10:50 p.m.
PRESCOTT — After a frustrating 48-12 loss to Grand Canyon region rival Mingus three weeks ago, Prescott football head coach Michael Gilpin was forced to make one of the most difficult decisions in his coaching career.
The aftermath cost junior Ryan Greene his starting job at quarterback for the Badgers.
“It was a hard decision. Ryan and I have been through a lot together, and we’re pretty close. I stuck with him a long time because I wanted him to be successful, and ultimately after a lot of sleepless nights, I just felt like the team would be better,” Gilpin confessed after his team finished its walkthrough Thursday in preparation for tonight’s rivalry game with Bradshaw Mountain.
Greene completed 4 of 10 passes for 90 yards, throwing a touchdown and two interceptions against the Marauders. His completion percentage dipped to a season-low 43 percent, and his quarterback rating was just a tick over 60.
It was “heartbreaking,” Greene said, to find out he would no longer be the top signal caller for the Badgers, but his attitude after the fact was first class.
“I’ve been at quarterback for a long time, but I had to do what was best for the team,” Greene said. “I came into practice [the next day] thinking that even though I’m not at quarterback, I have to be the best that I can be.”
Down the line, the Mingus game may be considered a crossroads-type moment in time for Prescott, because what’s transpired since is nothing short of impressive.
The Badgers are 2-0 since Gilpin made the change, inserting sophomore quarterback Austin Clark, who threw four touchdown passes in his starting debut against region foe Coconino in a 49-7 win Oct. 14.
Greene ran 15 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns at his newly found running back position against Coconino, recovered a fumble on defense in the first quarter and even managed to notch an onside kick recovery.
The following week, Clark completed 9 of 15 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, while Greene ran 23 times for 208 yards and three scores at the Walkup Skydome in a 43-12 victory over Flagstaff.
Prescott had lost its last two contests to the Eagles in the Walkup Skydome.
“He’s such an incredible athlete,” Clark said about Greene. “Anywhere you put him, he’s going to do well. I think having him on defense, and in the backfield is going to make us such a better team.”
The change of scenery offensively, Greene said, has given him room to breathe and just be a football player.
“When I’m at quarterback, I have a ton of responsibility. I can’t let the team down. But when I’m on kickoff, or defense, [or running the ball], you can be your own guy. You do your own job and make sure that you do it right,” Greene said.
Gilpin said it wasn’t a matter of replacing Greene, but more about moving him to a position where he could relax and be a “tremendous athlete.”
“I knew Austin was a young man willing to put everything into the position,” Gilpin said. “The move personality wise and skillset wise has worked out well.”
And now with a playoff berth and Grand Canyon region title on the line against the rival Bears, Greene said it’s going to be up to the Badger defense to stop another quarterback: Bradshaw Mountain’s Gunner Bundrick.
“He’s a fantastic quarterback. He can throw, he can run. We need to be on him the whole time,” Greene said. “They also have a few running backs that are good. I think all in all, their offense is all-star, but I think our defense should be able to beat them.”
Clark said it is key to remain focused against the Bears.
“Bradshaw is a good team, and if one person doesn’t bring it, that may be it [for us],” Clark said. “But if every one of us bring our ‘A’ game, we fight every play and every inch, we can take that win.”
Believing that Bradshaw Mountain “begins and ends” with Bundrick, Gilpin said the 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior is one of the best quarterbacks in the state at any level, and the Badgers will somehow have to contain him if they are to be victorious.
“He went from being an athletic kid with a big arm to being a complete quarterback. That makes him dangerous,” Gilpin said. “We’ll have to limit him as much as possible, get him uncomfortable in the pocket and on the ground. … See if we can keep them from scoring their normal 50 points per game.”
Scenario 1: Bradshaw Mountain wins Grand Canyon region if … Bradshaw Mountain beats Prescott.
Scenario 2: Prescott wins Grand Canyon region if … Prescott beats Bradshaw Mountain; AND Mingus loses to Sunrise Mountain.
Scenario 3: Mingus wins Grand Canyon region if … Mingus beats Sunrise Mountain; AND Prescott beats Bradshaw Mountain; AND Mingus finishes higher than Bradshaw Mountain in the 4A conference power point poll.
Editor's Note: The final 4A conference power point poll will not be updated until Saturday, Oct. 29, at 9 a.m., when the AIA releases the state playoff matchups during the “Bracket Show” live on azpreps365.com.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is a sports writer and columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him by phone at 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.