Glendale Cactus defense showed strength and desire to hold off a late second offense charge by Phoenix Greenway as Cactus held on for a 22-17 victory Friday in a Division III game at Cactus High.
“I thought our defense played well enough to win and they showed that on that last drive (by Greenway) to pull this one out for us,” Cactus head coach Larry Fetkenhier said. “It’s a win and you want wins, but we have got to play better overall if we want to keep winning.”
Cactus (3-1) led 16-10 with just over four minutes left in the game when Greenway quarterback Kenneth Heinzerling tossed a short pass across the middle to Joey McDonald. McDonald took the pass and ran a crossing pattern, breaking four tacklers, before racing 51 yards for a touchdown, putting Greenway (2-2) up 17-16.
“We got a great pattern from (McDonald) and he took the pass and then did the rest,” Greenway coach K.J. Anthony said. “He got away from a couple of defenders and then it was just a foot-race to the end zone.”
Cactus answered right back, taking the ensuing kick-off at their own 34 yard line. Nine plays later, quarterback Talal Yousufzai took the snap, rolled to his right and was almost sacked by three Greenway defenders, before rolling back to his right and tossing a pass to Alex Armbrust in the end zone.
“The play was originally supposed to be to his left,” Fetkenhier said, “but, luckily for us he has the foresight to change the play and roll the other way where he made a great pass and (Armbrust) made a great catch.”
Greenway still had a chance to win the game, when they got the ball at their own 35 with 1:11 remaining.
Heinzerling connected on four completions to put the ball at the Cactus 10, but with three seconds left he tossed a fade pass just out of the reach of Cody Wescott in the end zone.
“We had our chances and played great defense all game, but we just struggled on offense late,” Anthony said. “There kids played a little bit better than ours today, but we just didn’t get a couple of plays late.”
Greenway starting running back Mark Dogbah didn’t start the game, but when he did finally get in late in the first half, Cactus’s defense tightened up on him and held him to 51 yards in the first half.
“He is a great running back and we actually didn’t even realize that he wasn’t out there early,” Fetkenhier said. “When we did notice, our defense did a good job of slowing him down early.”
Cactus’ Austin Marshall ran the ball for 88 yards and Yousufzai connected on two touchdown passes and 144 yards through the air to lead the victory.
“He (Yousufzai) executed a great game and came up big when we needed it,” Fetkenhier said.
Dogbath finished with 166 yards but was held out of the end zone as Heinzerling connected for two touchdown passes and 258 yards in the air. McDonald caught 8 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns in the loss for Greenway.