In the playoffs, turnovers can be a dagger to the heart.
No. 12 Prescott Bradshaw Mountain found this out the hard way, as No. 5 Peoria forced five turnovers in a 50-23 victory in the first round of the Division III state playoffs Friday night.
Peoria will travel east to take on No. 4 Queen Creek next Friday in the quarterfinals.
“The defense played well and held a hand (in the game),” coach Will Babb said. “…If we don’t give up big plays on defense, it’s very hard for a team to go the length of the field play after play after play.”
The Peoria defense forced three interceptions — two by senior defensive back Evan Ford — and two fumbles.
Between the turnovers and special-team touchdowns, the Peoria (11-0) offense was off the field for a majority of the game.
Senior wide receiver Darius Aguirre, who didn’t record a catch all night, returned a 90- and 70-yard punt along with a 95-yard kickoff return. He would finish the night with four touchdowns, as he tacked on a 31-yard end around late in the game.
“It’s funny because you’re going to look at the stat book and see Darius, and you’re going to be like ‘Wow,’ ” Babb said of his elite wide receiver. “But he had a huge impact on this game. And that’s what great players do. They don’t force their hand; they take the hand that’s given to them.”
Bradshaw Mountain (7-4) came out of the gates aggressive, holding the Peoria offense without a first down for the first 14 minutes of the game. Bradshaw Mountain even had the lead 10-7 just before the end of the first quarter.
But Aguirre’s big 95-yard kickoff return started Peoria’s a string of 43-unanswered points.
“I just followed my blocks,” Aguirre said. “I didn’t have any catches but special teams and everything came through and we got the win so that’s all that matters.”
The only downfall of Peoria’s night was losing sophomore quarterback Anthony Guevera in the middle of the third quarter. Guevera got tackled and went down on his left side. He would exit the game and is considered questionable by Babb for next week.
“We’ll have to find out tomorrow for sure, (but) I don’t think it’s great,” Babb said.
Initial starter senior Dillon Gragnano, who went down two weeks ago with a high-ankle sprain, entered the game for Guevera.
“I believe whoever is supposed to take snaps next Friday is taking snaps,” Babb said. “Having two of them and having the ability to continue to run your offense is huge,” Babb said.