With a state championship, nearly everything is thrown out the window and the old football adage of controlling the ball and the line of scrimmage becomes a main staple.
Third-seeded Bagdad took control of both and powered its way to the Division VI eight-man football state championship with Justin Pacheco and Casey Jeans in a 44-20 win over No. 5 Heber Mogollon at Phoenix Shadow Mountain High.
It was Bagdad’s first state title since 1952, when it was six-man football.
“We really felt like our (offensive) line would be an advantage,” said Jeans, who was able to help Bagdad’s offense move what seemed seamlessly down the field.
“We really thought if we executed, we could do whatever we wanted offensively because we could line it up and pound the ball.”
The duo of Jeans and Pacheco moved the ball and despite picking up short yards here and there, it gave Bagdad quarterback Tony Jauregui a chance to find receivers.
On Bagdad’s first possession, Jauregui connected with James Loveall on an 8-yard pass to go up 8-0 after the 2-point conversion.
“For our team to come through and just pound it like that, it means so much,” said Pacheco, who finished the night with two touchdowns both on 1-yard runs.
“I can’t even explain it and I am still in shock. I feel like Jeans and I are a good connection because he is more speed and I am more power. It’s like, ‘You get behind me and I’m leading you in.’ ”
Despite trailing early 14-0, Mogollon and running back Dallyn Despain showed that no lead was safe.
Despain broke a 35-yard run with 9:56 left before halftime to cut the lead to 14-6.
Forty seconds later though, Bagdad made it a two-score game when Jauregui connected with Kody Low on a 62-yard pass to put them back up 20-6.
“We played as hard as we could through the entire game,” said Bagdad center and nose guard Clay Low, who helped control the line of scrimmage and give Jeans and Pacheco the holes to make plays.
“We didn’t come into the game thinking that we were going to blow them out. We were thinking they were going to be the toughest team we are going to play this year.”
Being able to control the clock and move down the field, Pacheco put the game out of reach on his second touchdown.
Bagdad got the ball back in the fourth quarter and moved it 53 yards on 14 run plays that concluded with Pacheco’s touchdown with 2:19 left in the game.
The drive started with 10:27 left in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a challenge for the lineman at first,” Jeans said. “We’ve had so much success busting out 25-yard gains. So it’s hard to keep them up when we only make 4-yard gains. Coming into the season, since Day 1 we’ve been dreaming about this and it’s so surreal. You think about it as time is running out and it’s like it’s finally here.”