Originally Published: August 25, 2018 11:04 p.m.
FLAGSTAFF — Bagdad’s football team let a late lead slip away, but Owen Barton’s 19-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter put the Sultans ahead for good in a 26-20 victory over Joseph City Saturday at Walkup Skydome.
The Sultans improved their record to 2-0, while Joseph City dipped to 0-1 to begin the 1A campaign.
Bagdad tailback Carson Jeans led the way offensively, rushing for 174 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. Elias Jauregui (10 carries, 43 yards, TD) and Barton (five carries, 55 yards, TD) followed.
“We found a way to win an ugly game, and we’ve just got to refocus for next week,” Bagdad coach Dalton Mills said.
With Saturday’s contest in a scoreless tie with 1:23 left in the first quarter, Bagdad’s Kaylab Owings hauled in a 33-yard interception return for TD to give the Sultans a 6-0 lead heading into the second period.
It appeared as though Bagdad would begin to pull away early in the second quarter after Jeans’ 53-yard TD run and a 2-point conversion made it 14-0.
But Latrell Kinlicheenie pumped life back into Joe City with an 8-yard TD run that cut the deficit to 14-6 heading into halftime. The Wildcats dominated time of possession in the first half, holding onto the ball for 20 of the 24 minutes, and yet the Sultans maintained a lead.
In the first quarter, the Sultans had only one possession, going three-and-out on their opening drive. Mills said his running backs fumbled three times in the second quarter, which helped Joe City hang around.
“We had a big run down the sideline – 20 yards or something like that – and then our running back fumbled it,” Mills added. “They moved the ball on us, and we kept stopping them. But we kept giving them chances to stay in it.”
Early in the third quarter, Jauregui scored from a yard out to extend Bagdad’s lead to 20-6 before Joe City rallied with 14 unanswered points to tie it at 20-20. Kinlicheenie’s 1-yard TD run on a fumble recovery got the ball rolling.
However, it was Barton’s 19-yard TD run with 2:42 left in regulation that gave Bagdad the lead for good, 26-20, as the Sultans held on for the victory.
Defensively for Bagdad, Jeans racked up a team-high 12 tackles (five solo, seven assisted), Jauregui had nine tackles (four solo, five assisted) and two interceptions (one on a 2-point play, one toward the end of the game), and Owings also nabbed two interceptions.
Bagdad visits defending 1A state runner-up Superior (2-0), which eliminated the Sultans 44-34 in the state semifinals last fall, at 7 p.m. Aug. 31. Superior has outscored its first two opponents, 104-0.
“We definitely need ball security – we definitely need to hold onto the football,” Mills said. “Physically we could wear them down a little bit. But it’s going to kind of be a contrast of styles because they’re pretty athletic with no depth. They play the same seven, eight, nine guys most of the time, where we have a lot more depth. We’re more about ball control right now.”
Joseph City will head to Valley Union (0-2), which hasn’t scored a point in its first two games, for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Aug. 31.
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.