Turnovers plague Bradshaw football in 29-24 loss at Peoria
PEORIA – The Class 4A ninth-seeded Bradshaw Mountain High football team took No. 8 Peoria to the limit on Friday night, Nov. 4, but was eliminated from the state playoffs in a 29-24 first-round loss.
Bradshaw concluded its season with an 8-3 overall record as the Grand Canyon Region champions. Peoria advances to the state quarterfinals to face three-time defending state champion Scottsdale Saguaro, which defeated 16th-seeded Tucson Amphitheater, 56-7, in their opening-round contest.
Saguaro will play host to Peoria at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10.
In the first round of the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) 4A Classification football state playoffs Friday night at Jantzen Field, the Bears committed four turnovers that ultimately cost them the game.
Peoria was led by tailback Sonatane Zabala, who ran for 136 yards. Quarterback Nate Dobson scored two TDs on the ground and threw a TD pass.
Bradshaw senior quarterback Gunner Bundrick completed 12-of-28 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns to go along with three interceptions. Wideout Ryan Shaver had seven catches for 128 yards and two TDs. Receiver Nick Othon had five grabs for 99 yards.
Trailing 16-3 at halftime, Bundrick threw a 59-yard TD pass to Shaver with 7:46 to go in the third to cut the Panthers’ lead to 6. On that pass play, Shaver eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving on the season.
But back came Peoria, as wideout Trevor Babb grabbed a TD catch for a 23-10 Panthers edge with 6:22 left in third. Bradshaw responded on its next drive, cutting it to 23-17 on a 48-yard TD run by Bundrick with 5:34 remaining.
The Bears seemed to gain momentum thanks to some timely Peoria penalties and when Peoria kicker Lino Rico missed a field goal with 47 seconds left in the third.
Peoria led 23-17 at end of the third quarter, but extended the advantage to 29-17 to open the fourth when Dobson dove for a 5-yard TD run in the corner of the end zone at the 8:42 mark. A 2-point conversion failed.
On Bradshaw’s ensuing drive, Bundrick found Shaver for a 13-yard TD reception with 5:31 left to cut it to 29-24 Peoria.
The Bears were still alive.
Peoria was forced to punt on its next possession and Bradshaw got the ball back at the Panthers’ 41-yard line with 3:34 to go.
However, Bundrick was intercepted by Peoria’s Elijah Neil at the Peoria 31-yard line with 3:22 remaining.
Peoria was again forced to punt with 1:11 left, but Bradshaw had no more timeouts.
Starting at their own 45, Bradshaw’s Bundrick threw a deep interception on first down to the Peoria 22. Shaver, the intended receiver, fought for the ball, but Neil was there for his second pick. Peoria then kneeled on the ball twice to end it.
In the first half, a short kickoff allowed Bradshaw to start its opening drive at its own 43-yard line. However, the Panthers intercepted Bundrick at the 48 on a tipped pass.
Peoria’s first drive stalled on fourth down in Bears’ territory, but Rico hit a 35-yard FG for a 3-0 Panthers’ lead with 3:11 left in the first quarter.
On the initial play of the second quarter, Dobson found wideout Isaiah Veal on a 45-yard TD pass for a 10-0 lead with 11:53 remaining until halftime.
Bradshaw’s offense, which had averaged around 50 points per game in its last four regular-season contests, struggled against Peoria, as Bundrick was hounded for much of the evening.
The Bears didn’t score until 5:55 left in the second quarter, settling for a 22-yard field goal from Matthew Tomayo after their drive stalled at the 5-yard line.
With Peoria up 10-3, Dobson scored on a 21-yard TD run with 4:01 to go. Rico’s extra point failed, but Peoria carried a 16-3 lead into halftime. Zabala helped keep drives alive for the hosts in the first half, rushing for 119 yards on nine carries.
In the final seconds of the first half, Bundrick found wideout Nick Othon for a 50-yard completion to reach the Peoria 3, but the half ended on that play.