Originally Published: August 24, 2018 11:17 p.m.
PHOENIX — Two for two!
After a sluggish start Friday night, Bradshaw Mountain’s football team rallied, scoring 20 unanswered points for a 20-7 win over Shadow Mountain in a Week 2 clash slowed by a 45-minute lightning delay at halftime.
At a windy Victory Stadium, the Bears stayed unbeaten at 2-0, their first such start since 2013. The Matadors dropped to 1-1. The 4A game featured six total turnovers and 240 combined yards in penalties.
“It feels good being 2-0 on the road – not just one at home, one away,” said defensive end Connor Scott, whose Bears beat Estrella Foothills last week in Goodyear. “The heat [of Phoenix] hit us, but we persevered and it showed. It was nice.”
Overall, Bradshaw’s defense was the difference, limiting the Matadors to around 200 total yards against a larger offensive line. The Bears’ superior conditioning showed.
“We were killing them with our speed all first half,” Scott added. “Come second half, we saw them change both big guys down to guard and we kept killing their little guys off the edge and blowing up their big guys up the middle. So, they had to revert to their big tackles outside, and they were just gassed all night by our whole defense.”
Bears running backs Anthony Mata and Logan Brannan also sparkled for Bradshaw, which outscored the Matadors 14-0 in a testy second half marred by personal fouls.
Mata ran for 170 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Brannan rushed for two TDs.
“Our offensive line made those holes wide for them,” linebacker Noah Shaver said. “But our running backs definitely ‘ground and pound.’ ”
With 7 minutes left in regulation, the Bears put the game out of reach when Brannan scored on a 2-yard touchdown run and quarterback Austin Gonzalez converted a 2-point conversion run for the 20-7 lead. Bradshaw cornerback Cody Tucker registered an interception with 5:30 remaining on Shadow’s next drive to put an exclamation point on the victory.
“Overall, I was very pleased with our kids’ mental toughness,” second-year coach Chuck Moller said.
In the second half, Shadow fumbled on its opening drive and Hunter Rowe recovered for the Bears at their own 46-yard line. Bradshaw’s Ruben Gonzales fumbled, too, though, on the ensuing possession for the Bears’ fourth turnover of the evening.
Bradshaw’s defense continued to shine, however, stuffing the Matadors on downs deep in the Bears’ own territory with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
The Bears turned the corner with their running game on their next drive, as Mata, Gonzalez and Brannan led the way. They grabbed their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter when Mata scored on an 18-yard run to hand Bradshaw a 12-7 advantage. A 2-point conversion pass failed.
The Matadors, who missed the 2017 playoffs after losing six in a row to end the season, were stifled by Bradshaw’s swarming defense. Coby Meldrum, Scott, Shaver, Luke Huenemeyer and Jared Wasielewski provided much of the pressure for a D that sacked Shadow quarterback Nainoa Shin three times in the opening half.
“This year our defense is the key part of our team, and we’re just trying to win every game, game by game,” Shaver said.
Bradshaw Mountain plays its home opener at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 versus Youngker (0-1) of Buckeye at Bob Pavlich Field in Prescott Valley.
Shadow Mountain visits Paradise Valley at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 in Phoenix.
Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.