Santa Cruz thwarts game-tying conversion

Santa Cruz thwarts game-tying conversion


Santa Cruz thwarts game-tying conversion


azcentral sports high schools

azcentral sports high schools

Two yards. Six feet. One tackler.

That’s all that separated Division V No. 3-ranked Queen Creek American Leadership Academy senior running back Matt Pensky from a game-tying two-point conversion with 2 minutes, 49 seconds remaining Friday night.

@media screen and (min-width:992px){{display:none;}}
@media only screen and (min-device-width: 481px) and (max-device-width: 1024px){{display:block !important;}}

Instead, American Leadership Academy (6-1) fell for the first time all season to No. 8 Eloy Santa Cruz (6-1) 14-12 at American Leadership Academy.

“We missed our lead blocker and just didn’t get a good block,” American Leadership Academy coach Rich Edwards said. “He glanced off the guy and our back stumbled … between a half-missed block and a stumble, they made a good defensive play.”

FIND A GAME: High school football scoreboard

After going down 14-0 with 8:35 remaining in the third quarter, American Leadership Academy looked about done. It had just surrendered an onside kick, giving Santa Cruz full control of the game.

On the ball for Santa Cruz was junior running back and linebacker Devin Neal, who had also scored the first touchdown of the game and became the main target in the running game.

“The team had a great performance,” Neal said of his effort. “It wasn’t just me.”

Santa Cruz coach Rishard Davis said Neal’s effort, in particular, stood out.

“He’s huge for us every game,” Davis said. “I don’t know if we’ll be in this position without him. … Our O-line, they blocked (for him) tonight. They blocked better than any game I saw this year.”

PHOTOS: On the sidelines – High school football 2015

Then, the offense woke up. American Leadership Academy totaled just 79 yards of offense in the first half, yet turned it on in the fourth quarter behind Pensky’s hard-nosed running.

Pensky plunged into the end zone from the 4-yard line with 2:36 remaining in the third quarter to launch the comeback, but a missed extra point would force a two-point conversion to tie the game.

American Leadership Academy would get its chance late in the fourth quarter as junior quarterback Dallin Edwards rolled left and found sophomore wide receiver Haiden Stowers for the 9-yard score.

American Leadership Academy coach Rich Edwards elected to go with what worked in the second half – hand the ball to Pensky.

RELATED: Nominate your favorite athlete for Arizona Sports Awards

This time, it didn’t work.

Davis said he was proud of his team’s effort on the game-clinching play.

“The team that won it, won it,” Davis said. “We knew they had to run it, so we just stacked the box and told our guys to go after it. Go get him.”

Neal, who was in on defense for the play, simply went with what had worked for him before.

“Coach just told me to blitz the middle, and I just wanted to do my job,” Neal said.

Davis said his team’s ability to come out with the tight victory impressed him.

“We haven’t played a game like this all year,” Davis said. “I’m glad we played a game like this because we have an onslaught for the next three games.

“It’s (a big win). Our program has been down for years. These kids believe, but they need to see it at the same time. I can sit here and tell them that they are worthy, but they need to see it. They need to experience this.”

@media only screen and (min-device-width: 320px) and (max-device-width: 480px){div.desktop{display:none;}}
@media only screen and (min-device-width : 768px) and (max-device-width : 1024px) {div.desktop{display:none;}}


More USA TODAY High School Sports
Santa Cruz thwarts game-tying conversion
I found this story on USA TODAY High School Sports and wanted to share it with you: %link% For more high school stories, stats and videos, visit