Originally Published: September 7, 2018 noon
Updated as of Friday, September 7, 2018 3:33 PM
PRESCOTT VALLEY — In a clash between unbeaten teams tonight, Sept. 7, Bradshaw Mountain football plays host to Greenway for a 4A contest that may eventually provide important power points to the winner.
As the 2018 season approaches region play, the Bears stand at 3-0 overall, while the Demons are 2-0. When they face off at 7 p.m. at Bob Pavlich Field, fans will get a glimpse of two potential state playoff qualifiers that are among the frontrunners in their respective regions.
“Our kids are really motivated – they’re really coming together as a team and doing good things,” Bradshaw Mountain coach Chuck Moller said. “I’m very pleased with the week of practice. If we win consistently each week, all that other stuff takes care of itself. I don’t worry about the rankings until the final week.”
Through three games, Grand Canyon region member Bradshaw Mountain has leaned on its swarming, hard-hitting defense and the leg of precision punter Luke Huenemeyer to establish good field position for its offense to score, which has been working.
That strategy could prove a tougher task to execute against a Greenway squad of the Skyline region that’s more balanced offensively and isn’t half bad on defense, either.
Offensively, the Demons are led by four seniors. They include quarterback Tyler Duncan (43 for 61, 590 yards, six TDs, no INTs; 11 carries, 42 yards, two TDs); fullback T.J. Murphy (19 carries, 204 yards, two TDs); 6-foot-3, 230-pound tight end Caden Howen-Hughes (nine catches, 169 yards, two TDs) and wideout Julian Arias (14 receptions, 137 yards, two TDs).
Moller said Duncan “can break out of the pocket and be an issue,” and he compared Greenway’s offense to Bradshaw Mountain’s Week 1 opponent, Estrella Foothills (20-13 win).
“They move the ball around real well, get it to their wide receivers,” Moller added about the Demons, who like to play four wideouts. “They do a nice job on short screens, both to the back wide receiver.
“[Murphy] is a very good running back – not real big, but he’s solid. He does a nice job of breaking tackles. Coming down the sideline, he’s 190 pounds, give or take. He’s for real.”
The Bears’ offense, meanwhile, has gotten a big boost from senior tailback Anthony Mata, the team’s leading rusher with 353 yards on 38 carries and four touchdowns. Senior tailback Logan Brannan follows with 118 yards on 26 carries and four TDs.
Bradshaw Mountain senior quarterback Austin Gonzales has struggled a bit with his passing, although he has shown steady improvement over the past two weeks.
“Austin’s had a really good week of practice, and our running game has been good, so we just have to continue to monopolize on those things,” Moller said.
Gonzales has completed 22 of 51 passes for 278 yards with four TDs and three interceptions. His preferred target here in the early part of the season has been wideout Ruben Gonzalez, who has 13 catches for 153 yards and three TDs.
Moller said Greenway’s defense is in the mold of former UCLA defensive coordinator Rocky Long’s in the early 1990s. Long is the current head coach at San Diego State.
“They run a radar-type defense where everybody stands up, moves around,” the coach added. “It’s a confusion defense. You just have to be patient. They’re going to get big plays at times, and so will we. So, we just have to take advantage and hope we get a few more.”
Defensively for the Bears, senior linebackers Connor Scott and Noah Shaver have been men among boys. Of Scott’s 15 tackles, a team-best 7.5 of them have gone for losses. He also leads the squad in sacks with three. Shaver has tallied a team-high 25 tackles, including 18 solos and six tackles for loss, and two sacks.
Standouts also include Elijah Knisely (23 tackles, 16 solos, five tackles for loss), Huenemeyer (22 tackles, 15 solos, 3.5 tackles for loss and an interception), Cameron Harris (21 tackles, 12 solos, four tackles for loss, two sacks, two caused fumbles, fumble recovery) and Logan Brannan (20 tackles, 13 solos, 2-1/2 tackles for loss, three pass deflections), among others.
On special teams, “we’ve had great pressure out of our punt-block team, blocking two on the year,” Moller said, “and we’ve had great pressure, good field position all day long.” But, he added, the kick return team must improve its blocking.
“We’ve had some breakout games offensively, some breakout games defensively,” Moller said. “What I really want to see is our special teams step up now [in the place kicking and return game].
“Our standard on special teams is very high here. We put our best players on them. And we want that to reflect the same as our offense and defense.”
Doug Cook is a 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.