Originally Published: October 6, 2017 11:20 p.m.
After limping to a 0-5 start, Bradshaw Mountain’s football team appears to be hitting its stride, cruising to its second consecutive victory in 4A Grand Canyon region play Friday night at Bob Pavlich Field in Prescott Valley.
Quarterback Austin Gonzales completed 11 of 21 passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns, leading the Bears to a 49-13 win over visiting Coconino of Flagstaff. Wideout Bryan Price was Gonzales’ favorite target, as the speedster had three receptions for 167 yards, all for TDs.
“We’ve been practicing all week heavily on passing,” said a grinning Gonzales afterward. “We knew we could do it; we just had to connect. And it was just working out really well. We just had the chemistry today.”
On Sept. 30, Bradshaw Mountain torched Mingus Union, 45-16, in Cottonwood, and the Bears entered Week 7 hungry for more. The 4A No. 33-ranked Bears improved their record to 2-5 overall, 2-1 in region, while the No. 32 Panthers dipped to 1-6, 0-3. Coconino lost its sixth consecutive contest following a Week 1 win over Page Aug. 25.
First-year Bradshaw Mountain coach Chuck Moller said his team has started to mature.
“Like we said in the beginning — our mistakes were our own, not the other teams,” he said of eliminating the turnovers and penalties that haunted the Bears in the season’s first half. “It wasn’t that we didn’t play well enough to win.”
On Friday, Bradshaw Mountain’s passing offense made the Panthers’ inexperienced secondary pay, as Gonzales threw for TD strikes of 72, 40, 65, 42 and 62 yards.
“We tried to work on the passing game,” Coconino coach Jeremiah Smith said. “We knew if we could make them one-dimensional, we could try and do something. But that ‘one-dimensional’ meant them throwing it. That post pattern killed us tonight. We’ve got to do better on the back end. Credit the Bears. They’ve got some good talent on the outside, and that quarterback gets it out really quick.”
Gonzales tossed the first of his five TD passes to Ruben Gonzalez — a 72-yard bomb with 2:29 left in the first quarter. He followed that one up with the 40-yarder to Price with 19 seconds remaining in the opening frame. Coconino would cut the Bears’ lead to 14-7 midway through the second quarter when junior QB Ty Furr connected with tight end Abel Harris for a 17-yard score.
But that’s as close as the visitors would get to the Bears, who scored 35 unanswered points from the 5-1/2-minute mark of the second quarter to 6:46 remaining in regulation.
Gonzales found Price again on a 65-yard TD with 5:38 left in the second quarter, less than a minute after Coco’s Harris scored. Speedy wideout Devon Olson then got into the act on a 42-yard TD reception for a 28-7 Bradshaw Mountain advantage with 1:58 remaining until intermission.
The Bears played well defensively, too. Senior linebacker Timmy Young hauled in two interceptions, including a 35-yard return for TD only 23 seconds after Olson reached pay dirt. One pick came on a tipped ball.
“Coming into this game, it’s all about the study,” Young said. “We did a great job with our scout offense and showing us what we were going to be seeing in the game. You just kind of pick up things throughout the game. They kept running those crossing patterns, and I knew one of them I was going to get them.”
With the Bears up 35-7 at halftime, neither team reached the end zone in the third quarter, which was highlighted by a blocked field goal for Coconino and back-to-back interceptions by Young and Coco’s Kyle Casados.
Bradshaw Mountain put the game out of reach two minutes into the fourth quarter when Gonzales hit Price for the third and final time on a 62-yard strike. Leading 42-7, Bears tailback David Mata accounted for the exclamation point, running in from 7 yards out with 6:46 to go.
Gonzales said he enjoyed connecting with Price on a few post patterns. Price, too, was beaming.
“Me and Gonzo, we’re friends, we always hang out in school — and we’ve always been close together in practice,” Price said.
Price added that these past two Bears wins are a result of adjusting to Moller’s style.
“We started this season off shaky, because of the new coaches, new systems,” he added. “But we put in a new defense that’s really locking it down. And our offense, our techniques, are way better.”
Bradshaw Mountain continues on in Grand Canyon play when it takes on Lee Williams at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, in Kingman.
Coconino hosts Prescott at 7 p.m. Friday at Cromer Stadium in Flagstaff for its next region clash.
Follow Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2039, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.