Meaningful early season games can test the mettle for some teams and for others expose weaknesses.
As two top teams met at Mesa Community College on Friday, Phoenix Northwest Christian pulled out a 28-21 win in double overtime and finally got revenge for losing to Tempe Preparatory Academy the past two seasons.
“We didn’t play great, but we got it done,” said Northwest Christian quarterback Drew Inness, who had two passing scores and one on the ground in the first overtime. “Those guys have beaten us the past two years, and we owed them. It was a great game and we made a lot of mistakes, but it was a good win.”
Inness’ 10-yard rushing touchdown came in response to Tempe Prep’s first possession in overtime to tie the game at 21.
He was under pressure, but then found a hole up the middle and was tackled just after crossing the goal line.
FIND A GAME: Friday’s high school football scores
However, the game might never had gone into overtime if it had not been for a little luck for Tempe Prep.
With 1 minute, 55 seconds left in the game, Tempe Prep had an opportunity to make one last drive, and it proved fruitful.
Starting on its own 9-yard line and trailing 14-7, Tempe Prep moved to Northwest Christian’s 14-yard line.
With 4.8 seconds left, Tempe Prep quarterback Gabriel Labeau took off toward the end zone and fumbled as he was being taken down.
The ball rolled into the end zone where Tempe Prep’s Herman Flores recovered it to send the game into overtime.
“I was getting ready for the call, and I thought he was going to throw it,” said Flores. “As soon as he started running, I was trying to find some way that I could help my quarterback. When he let that ball go, I just pounced on it and hoped for the best.
“I was excited and my thinking was very positive. … I was going to get my team rallied up and things were going to go in our direction.”
After Tempe Prep scored on the first possession of overtime on Isaiah Brittain’s 1-yard run, Northwest Christian answered on Inness’ touchdown.
On Northwest Christian’s second possession of overtime, Ray Kindred was the outlet on the option play that gave them a 28-21 lead
“I figured I just wanted to get into the end zone, and it didn’t matter what it took,” said Kindred about his game-winning run. “I saw a lot of defenders in front of me, and I just ran. It was an option play and it was supposed to go outside, but I cut it back inside and it worked out.”
Tempe Prep had another opportunity to answer, but like it had all night, the Northwest Christian defense found ways to step up.
The defense forced Labeau to make a pass on the run that was dropped on fourth down.
With a little more than 5 minutes left in regulation, Northwest Christian defensive back Nathan Beyler came up with his second turnover of the night, intercepting a long throw by Labeau that kept the game at 14-7.
“When the ball gets in the air, you just kind of lose everything and count on your reflexes,” said Beyler, who also recovered a Tempe Prep fumble in the third quarter. “I just thought we needed to come up big so we can get our offense the ball and they can go score.
“Coach (David) Inness just said all he wants is for us to get the win. Doesn’t matter how it is, but wants us to play as hard as we can.”