Tough defense powers Bears to 6-0 start, beat Coconino 28-14
Bradshaw Mountain one victory away from tying 1986 club for best start in school history
FLAGSTAFF — Bradshaw Mountain football coach Chuck Moller predicted that Friday night’s big game at Coconino would be an old-fashioned, grind-it-out kind of high school contest.
He wasn’t kidding in this 4A Grand Canyon region showdown.
Tied at 7-7 late in the first quarter at Cromer Stadium, the Bears scored 21 unanswered points on the strength of its defense and moved on to beat previously undefeated Coconino, 28-14, to remain unbeaten at 6-0.
The 2018 Bradshaw Mountain team has moved within one win of matching the 1986 Bears’ program-best 7-0 start.
“Everyone’s going crazy,” Bears linebacker Noah Shaver said afterward. “It’s an amazing feeling, giving our seniors a good year to end on.”
Bradshaw Mountain improved to 2-0 for first place in the region, while the Panthers dropped to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in region.
“Life is good,” Moller said. “It was a good challenge. It was kind of penalty-ridden game, because both teams played physical, but it was not a cheap game one way or the other.”
Tailback Anthony Mata led the Bears’ offense, unofficially rushing for 123 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Logan Brannan followed with 68 yards on 13 carries and a TD.
Bears quarterback Josh Grant, starting in place of suspended starter Austin Gonzales for the second straight game, had 15 carries for 60 yards and a TD. He completed 4 of 12 passes for 48 yards.
The Bears unofficially finished with 252 yards rushing and 48 yards passing for 300 total yards. But they committed 14 penalties for 155 yards, including two TDs that were called back, and had two turnovers.
Bradshaw’s defense, which limited Coco to 234 total yards, picked off Panthers QB Ty Furr twice, with one of those picks swinging the momentum in the visitors’ direction.
With the Bears leading 13-7 at halftime, Brannan scored on a 65-yard interception return for TD with 8 minutes remaining in the third quarter to turn the tide of the game. The pick-6 handed the Bears a 21-7 lead after Grant found Alex Cabral on a 2-point conversion pass.
“Logan’s interception definitely did swing the momentum,” Shaver said. “When Logan got that, I felt very happy. Our defense is something to be reckoned with this year. We’re bonding better every game.”
Later, inside of 10 seconds left in the third quarter, Grant’s 10-yard TD scamper and subsequent extra point extended the lead to 28-7 for those 21 unanswered points.
“We asked Josh to protect the ball and execute our offense, and he did that,” Moller said. “He played good enough against our best opponent so far. He must be doing something right.”
But Coconino hung tough, responding on its next drive after benefiting from a roughing the passer call on third down. Furr hit Kyle Casados on a 12-yard slant pass for a TD that cut the Bears’ edge to 28-14 with 11:27 to go in regulation.
And yet Coconino would get no closer, as Bradshaw Mountain’s defense held. With little more than a minute left, the Bears’ Liam Craig sealed the victory with an interception deep in Bradshaw Mountain territory.
“They have a great wing-T, and they did a nice job of maneuvering, but we forced them to go to the air,” Moller said. “They don’t do that very much, and we were able to stop them. We were in attack mode. We attacked and applied pressure, forcing Furr out of the pocket.”
INJURIES ON THE LINE
Bradshaw Mountain starting offensive lineman Hunter Rowe suffered an injury against Coconino, a week after starting lineman Cameron Harris was hurt at Lee Williams. Harris missed Friday’s game.
Bradshaw Mountain plays host to Flagstaff (2-3 overall, 1-1 GCR) on homecoming at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, at Bob Pavlich Field in Prescott Valley.
Coconino visits Prescott (3-2, 1-0) at 7 p.m. Sept. 28 at Bill Shepard Field.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) will release its first power-point rankings for football on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and Bradshaw Mountain and Coconino should crack the Top 16.
Doug Cook is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at email@example.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.