Friday’s matchup against No. 2 Morenci marked top-seeded Phoenix Northwest Christian’s third trip to the state title game in three years, but this year’s contest had a brand-new obstacle — a high-powered Morenci offense that Northwest Christian had never seen.
The new hurdle proved to be no issue for a poised and powerful Northwest Christian defense, which effectively shut down Morenci’s ground-and-pound offense on its way to a 21-7 victory in the Division V title matchup at Northern Arizona University’s Walkup Skydome on Friday.
“Our defense did amazing,” Northwest Christian quarterback Kyle Shipp said. “They’ve been rocking all year, and they really stepped up this game and shut it down altogether.”
Northwest Christian held Morenci scoreless in three of the game’s quarters and also forced three costly turnovers. The No. 2 seed, which averaged 317.6 yards a game coming into the championship game, rushed for just 94 yards Friday.
The defense was led by junior linebacker Matt Delos and senior defensive back Josh James. James had been out since September due to injury, but showed no signs of rust Friday. He recovered a fumble in the second quarter, which gave Northwest Christian’s offense the ball on the 20-yard line with a chance to reclaim the lead. The offense would score on the following possession and move to 14-7, a lead it would keep through intermission.
“He’s 140 pounds on a good day, but he was making plays all over the field,” Northwest Christian coach Dave Inness said of James.
Morenci’s opportunities were few and far between, and it was unable to capitalize on what chances it got. After a scoreless third quarter, Northwest Christian’s James Mosbrucker’s 1-yard touchdown run with 9:22 remaining in the fourth quarter stretched the lead to two possessions and put Morenci in a hole it could not escape.
“We drove the ball down on a couple of occasions and just couldn’t finish it,” Morenci coach Frank Ogas said. “Northwest Christian had a lot to do with that.”
Friday’s win marked Northwest Christian’s second title in three years. It came up short last year, losing to Yuma Catholic 21-19.
“It’s great to come back this year and take (the title) back,” running back Hunter McShanag said.
McShanag carried the ball 19 times for 132 yards. Quarterback Kyle Shipp was 9-for-20 passing with two touchdowns and an interception.