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Northwest Christian forces six turnovers against Yuma Catholic
Higuera fills in at QB for injured Pistone
Six turnovers weren't enough to keep the Shamrocks out of Friday night's game against Northwest Christian, but one run may have closed the book on them.
On the last play of the first half, Yuma Catholic quarterback Tommy Pistone re-injured his left knee after being knocked to the ground after a 10-yard run. Pistone didn't return and the Shamrocks (6-2, 4-1 2A West) lost to the Crusaders (7-0, 5-0 2A West) 26-21 at Ricky Gwynn Stadium.
Yuma Catholic coach Rhett Stallworth sent in backup quarterback Julian Higuera, but the junior utility player was unable to recover from his shaky start. Higuera's first two passes, in the first half, were both interceptions. Higuera finished 2-for-5 with 42 yards and a touchdown.
"There was a lot of pressure. I’m not sure I got too much time, they were coming in quick," Higuera said. "They were coming in hard every time. They were busting our chops."
Higuera and Pistone combined for four first-half interceptions, which led to 14 points for the Crusaders. Northwest Christian finished the game with five interceptions and a recovered fumble.
"We didn't deserve to win tonight, we didn’t play well enough to win tonight, and I’m completely disgusted by our performance in a lot of ways," Stallworth said.
After leading 19-7 at halftime, Northwest Christian added to the lead early with a 14-play, 88-yard drive, which was capped by a 27-yard pass to Dakota Anderson from quarterback Nathan LaBarbera. The Crusaders were 4-for-4 on third down conversions during the drive.
Later in the quarter, Higuera's fumble was turned into six points for Northwest Christian when Anderson caught another pass from LaBarbera, this time from 27-yards out to cap a five-play, 50-yard drive.
But as soon as the game entered the fourth quarter, Yuma Catholic's offense opened up the game. Shamrocks' running back Ed Harris took the first carry of the fourth quarter 82 yards, breaking three tackles, in for a score to bring the game within two scores at 26-14. Harris finished the game with 239 yards and two touchdowns.
Yuma Catholic immediately recovered a squib quick at the Crusaders' 49-yard line to put the team into scoring position. But after three plays went for negative yards the Shamrocks were forced to punt.
Higuera got one last opportunity to pull the Shamrocks within a score, but Stallworth elected to run the ball on eight of the drive's 12 plays. Brent Bash did pull in a touchdown to cap the 86-yard drive, but with only 1:40 remaining in the game.
"They limited our playbook," Stallworth said. "They had five picks, that’s the reason we didn’t throw. They outplayed us tonight. What can you say?"
Kody King's onside kick bounced out of bounds and the Crusaders picked up one last first down to end the game.
Northwest Christian's Casey Jahn rushed for 204 yards on 24 carries to lead a Crusaders' rushing attack which picked up 324 yards. Yuma Catholic, in an effort to thwart Northwest Christian's run game, placed as many as nine players in the box. It was never enough to slow the Crusaders down.
"If you put those nine guys and our five guys on the line on a scale, it’s probably pretty close," Northwest Christian coach Derek Wahlstrom said. "That’s an advantage that we’re going to try and take care of."
Yuma Catholic's Tanner Mixon picked off two of LaBarbera's passes, including one with his back to the end zone. Mixon's interception in the first quarter was later turned into six points after Harris ran in the ball from 5 yards out to score the game's first points.
That would be the last time the Shamrocks held the lead.
Yuma Catholic will now prepare to travel to play Phoenix Christian, which Stallworth said may give his team trouble.
"Pistone looks like he’s out for the year," Stallworth said. "I guess we know where Higuera is going to play now. After that we go back to basics, fundamentals and all that, because that’s what we need."