In a game with over 100 points scored, who would have thought that a defensive play would decide the outcome.
Sunrise Mountain’s Elijah Castro intercepted a pass at his team’s own 5-yard line to seal a 57-47 upset victory over host Paradise Valley on Friday.
Castro, who was asked by his coaches if he wanted to play defense late in the fourth quarter, had nearly sacked Paradise Valley (5-3) quarterback Ryan Finley two plays earlier before his interception sealed the victory.
“Coaches asked if I wanted to play linebacker and told me I was going to cover someone or blitz,” Castro said. “Two plays earlier I had blitzed, but coached told me to play back and I read the quarterback and saw him going left and picked it off.”
Sunrise Mountain (7-1) battled back from a 12-point, third-quarter deficit as head coach James Carter knew it was going to take a lot of points to pull off the upset.
“Coming in, I knew we were playing a good football team that scored a lot of points, so if you had said it would take 57 to win, I would have believed you,” Carter said.
Trailing by 12 with just over two minutes left in the third, Sunrise Mountain mounted the beginning of their comeback when Corey Brown took a hand-off and raced 65 yards up the middle, avoiding three Paradise Valley defenders, into the end zone.
After the Sunrise Mountain defense held on Paradise Valley’s first drive in the fourth, Sunrise Mountain quarterback Neiman Sneed drove the team 44 yards on six plays, culminating on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Sneed to Castro with just over 11 minutes left in the game to give Sunrise Mountain its first lead.
“We knew we were going to have to play a great game,” Sneed said. “The line came up huge in the second half and we just moved the ball down the field.”
Finley, who passed for 365 yards in the loss, drove the Paradise Valley offense down for the go ahead score with just under three minutes left, but was intercepted by Jonathan Salari at the Sunrise Mountain nine yard line.
“We got a huge defensive stop and the interception late really pumped this team up,” Carter said.
Rather than try and run the clock out, the Sunrise Mountain offense decided to try and put the game out of reach as Sneed addressed his team in the huddle.
“I told the line that if they can get us some holes, we could put this game out of reach,” Sneed said.
The line got a huge push on the first play, opening a hole on the left side where Castro took a hand off and raced 47 yards to the Paradise Valley 38-yard line. After four straight rushes put Sunrise Mountain at the 18, Castro took a hand off, raced to his right, cut back up the middle and into the end zone for the clinching score.
“We may not get a lot a respect because of who we have played, but we are 7-1 and this team knows it can play with anyone,” Castro said.
Sneed passed for 185 yards and two touchdowns and Castro added 105 yards on the ground and a touchdown, as well as a 91-yard kick off return for a touchdown to open the second half.
Paradise Valley, who had rushed for 121 yards in the first half, was held to minus-10 yards in the second half as Carter said his team had to stop the run.
“We knew (Finley) was going to throw the ball, we needed to stop the run,” Carter said. “The kids came up huge and this win means we might get to host a first round playoff game.”