Glendale Cactus has been riding its defense all season long. That didn’t change Friday night in a big Division III win at high-scoring Peoria Sunrise Mountain.
Sunrise Mountain was able to move the ball all night, but when it mattered most, Cactus’ defense came up big in a 49-28 win.
Cactus (7-2) held Sunrise Mountain to nearly half its season average and never gave up a lead it took just before halftime.
“To hold them to 28 points is a hell of a job,” Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier said. “They’ve scored a lot of points against everybody.”
Cactus was able to score more in this one as it capitalized on some key Sunrise Mountain mistakes.
One play after Sunrise Mountain fumbled on its first snap of the second half, Cactus’ Jaylon James took a run in 22 yards for a touchdown to give Cactus a 27-14 lead.
Sunrise Mountain answered with a 13-play scoring drive to stay within a touchdown. But Cactus kept some distance as David Neel returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown and a 35-21 lead after a 2-point conversion.
Sunrise Mountain was able to mount another long drive to get back within a touchdown at 35-28, but Cactus’ defense gave up no more.
First, Cactus forced a fumble and turned it into James’ third rushing touchdown. Then on Sunrise Mountain’s next possession, two drive-killing sacks gave the ball back to Cactus.
Cactus ultimately had to punt, but Sunrise Mountain muffed it, setting up Cactus deep in Sunrise Mountain territory.
James’ fourth touchdown two plays later iced the victory and made the game look like more of a blowout than it was.
Sunrise Mountain (7-2) outgained Cactus by about 200 yards, but that was no comfort to Sunrise Mountain coach James Carter.
“We can’t have turnovers against a good team,” Carter said. “And we had too many missed tackles.”
Cactus’ defense stepped up big at the end despite playing most of the game without talented defensive back Anthony Alcala.
Alcala was ejected in the first half for throwing a punch at a Sunrise Mountain player in a tackle pile. He will have to sit out next week’s big game against Peoria Liberty.