It took nearly half the game, but Glendale Apollo continued to roll once its play-action pass became effective and a player who returned to the sport electrified the offense.
Host Apollo (7-1) rallied from an early 7-0 deficit to score on five consecutive possessions from the second quarter on to defeat Glendale Deer Valley, 31-14, in Division II game.
Apollo senior wide receiver Braxton Nickerson, who returned to football after concentrating on track after his freshman year, made two critical receptions to ignite the Apollo offense and turn the contest.
Nickerson made a spectacular leaping grab on quarterback Jordan Gungl’s lob in the left side of the end zone on a 28-yard reception with four seconds left in the half to give Apollo a 17-7 lead.
Just after the half, Nickerson struck again with a leaping grab on the other side of the field on a 32-yard pass play to the Deer Valley 4 that set up Kylen Green’s second touchdown of the night and lifting Apollo to a 24-7 lead early in the third.
“We had to correct some things and we weren’t getting things done early,” Apollo coach Zack Threadgill said. “We opened up our pass with our run. Braxton has been just great for us.”
Nickerson caught only two passes for 62 yards. Gungle completed 12 of 24 passes for 199 yards and running back Nico Bayless carried 26 times for 125 yards.
The Apollo defense kept Deer Valley (2-6) quarterback Devon Palomino on the run most of the evening, but he got Deer Valley going early.
Palomino connected with Gonzalez Santana on a 50-yard pass play to the Apollo 2 to set up his own 2-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 6:07 to play in the first.
After an ineffective first quarter on offense, Apollo tied the game in similar fashion. Gungl connected with Evan Clark on a 44-yard pass play to the Deer Valley 6. Two plays later, Green, also the backup quarterback, kept it himself for a two-yard touchdown run to tie the game early in the second.
Apollo took its first lead on Rodrigo Hernandez’s 42-yard field goa.l
Bayless added a 14-yard touchdown run to ice the contest at 31-14 late in the third.
Deer Valley took advantage of a fumble and Palomino (10-22, 158 yards) connected with Kenneth Wright for a 20-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 31-24 early in the fourth.