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Fri, Nov. 22

Prep Football - Game of the Week: Badgers look to snap 2-game losing streak

Over the past couple weeks on the road, the Prescott High School football team ran into a pair of buzz saws in current Division II No. 4-ranked Glendale Deer Valley and Division I 15th-rated Anthem Boulder Creek.

After getting off to a strong start in Week 1 with a 39-21 victory against rival Bradshaw Mountain at home, the D-II No. 32 Badgers (1-2 overall, 1-0 Section III) have now lost two in a row.

Nonetheless, Prescott plans to reverse its fortunes when it returns to Bill Shepard Field tonight at 7 to take on D-III No. 28 Phoenix Moon Valley (1-2), an opponent that has had similar struggles.

PHS coach Steve Moran said that despite the tough losses, his Badgers are keeping everything in the proper perspective and arguably had two of their best practices earlier this week.

The coach added that playing stronger foes will help him and his assistant coaches build the program.

"We had probably what I would consider our two toughest weeks in a row we're going to have all season," Moran said. "We played two good teams. We've come out of that pretty OK, physically and emotionally. I don't think there are a lot of things that we have to do to keep morale up. Morale's up. We're still a pretty good 1-2 football team."

However, PHS has sputtered in consecutive games, having been outscored a combined 73-6. In the past six quarters, senior running back Dakoda Peterson (5-foot-9, 165 pounds) accounted for the Badgers' lone touchdown, which came in a 43-6 setback to Deer Valley.

To the Badgers' credit last Friday, the referee called their contest against Boulder Creek at halftime because of lightning, meaning they lost out on an opportunity to avoid a 30-0 shutout.

Of late, Prescott's offense has suffered from the three-and-out syndrome. So earlier this week, Moran said he made adjustments to the offense in hopes of resuscitating it so that it can better sustain drives.

"I'm going to limit the number of running plays and the number of passing plays, and I've just created a bigger expectation for them right now," Moran said. "I don't expect dropped balls, and I don't expect balls thrown over someone's head. I expect runners to find their holes and I expect linemen to do their job up front. I'm putting a little more pressure on them this week. And so far, so good."

Badgers starting senior quarterback Brad Hall (6-1, 185) has completed just 20-of-57 passes for 244 yards and three TDs in three games, according to maxpreps.com. Last week, he was 0-for-12 passing.

Hall remains in a tight battle with junior backup QB Nick Rock (5-11, 150), who has played sparingly, for the starter's job. Speedy junior tailback Brady Mengarelli could see some time at signal-caller as well, Moran said.

"We're trying to find the right formula here, and all three kids do something different than the other," he said. "They all have their strengths and they all have their weaknesses. We're just trying to see which one molds into what my expectation is right now."

Dakota Peterson leads Prescott's offense, rushing for 203 yards on 60 carries and two TDs. Mengarelli has been the Badgers' only other true threat in the backfield, racking up 89 yards on 14 carries and a TD.

PHS's main struggle is in the passing game. No receiver has caught more than four passes and no wideout has reached 100 yards through the first three games.

Peterson paces the receiving corps with four catches for 92 yards and a TD. Senior wideouts Reed Chiappetti (four receptions for 55 yards) and Cameron Kinsey (four catches for 48 yards and a TD) follow.

On defense, the Badgers have been susceptible to giving up the big play on third down, even though they have shown strength in the trenches. Moran said if the unit fixes that problem it will be in much better shape.

"The thing that we had to correct on defense, against both Deer Valley and Boulder Creek, was we always gave them a third-down situation and we never shut the door," Moran said. "They always got a big play on third down. We've addressed that in our coaching and I've addressed it with a different look with a little bit different responsibility on third and long. And I think the kids like it and enjoy running it."

During the past two weeks, PHS has also tried to overcome injuries and/or illness to three key senior starters on its defensive line, as well as to senior linebacker Drew Hicks, who has yet to play this season and might not be back for another week or two.

Starting d-lineman/offensive lineman Mike Garcia (5-11, 220) should return tonight after missing last week's game. Lineman Rudy Acosta (6-1, 265), who's been out the past two games with an illness, could also play. If he doesn't return tonight, he'll be back at practice Monday, Moran said.

But starting senior defensive tackle Clayton Lackey (6-0, 218) is lost for the season with a knee ligament tear that he suffered a couple weeks ago at Deer Valley. Lackey expects to undergo surgery soon, the coach said.

In those players' absence, Badgers linebackers Sterling Johnson (5-10, 174), Kyle Morley (5-8, 170) and Kalen Bierhaus (6-0, 180) have stepped to the fore to guide the defense.

As for Moon Valley, it opened the season with consecutive 53-0 and 43-0 blowout losses to Glendale Cactus and Peoria, respectively, before bouncing back last week to defeat Glendale 20-10.

Moran said the Rockets' offense operated out of the shotgun in their first two games before switching to an I-formation last week against the Cardinals. The shift in strategy appears to have worked, and Prescott expects to see a power running game - perhaps even some wildcat formations - from Moon Valley tonight.

Junior fullback Zac Davis (5-8, 155) is the go-to guy for the Rockets. According to maxpreps.com, he combined to run for 70 yards on 19 carries against Cactus and Peoria.

"Their offense is like night and day now," Moran said. "It looks like they put all their marbles into that I-formation, and they were successful. We have three films on them, and you can see the improvement they made from one game to the next."

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