On their first possession of the game, it took all of three plays for the Marauders senior quarterback Tanner Caron to punch it into the end zone for the first score of their homecoming game, and followed that with a 2-point conversion from junior Taylor Thagard, to go up 8-0 over the Flagstaff Eagles.
The Eagles responded in kind, driving down field and putting up seven of their own. After three possessions, the contest had the makings of a shootout, but quickly turned into a defensive battle, until the third quarter when Flagstaff was able to get things going on offense and eventually topped Mingus Union 24-14.
"Same stuff that's been bothering us all year, just lack of execution at the point of attack," head coach Bob Young said. "We're just not getting it done."
Coming into their homecoming game, the Marauders were forced to switch things up. For starters, senior quarterback Micah Nevarez was ruled medically ineligible due to a concussion, but could be back for the game against Mohave, and filling in for him was Caron. Senior running back, and defensive back, Brennan Kitchen is done for the season after suffering a torn ACL, according to Young.
Flagstaff almost added another touchdown in the first quarter, but a holding penalty cancelled the score and moved the Eagles from the 2-yard line to the 12. The ensuing pass was incomplete, and then the Eagles kicked a field goal.
Déjà vu. The Eagles were called for a false start, the field goal was called back and the next 3-point attempt missed, leaving Mingus with the 1-point lead.
After the failed drive from Flagstaff, the Marauders' defense stood strong for the rest of the half. The defense forced the Eagles to punt two more times and earned a turnover on downs, through the opening half.
While the defense was doing what it had to and holding the Flagstaff offense, the Marauders' own offense was never able to get going after its initial score.
As the offense would march its way up field, any momentum that was built was quickly lost, either on penalties, mistakes or being stopped by the Eagles defense.
There were big plays by the Marauders. An 18-yard run from senior running back Dakota Hanks. A 22-yard catch from junior back Javin Helsel or a bomb from Caron to Hanks as the first-half wound down. While those were just some of the plays that got the crowd on its feet during the first half, Mingus Union was not able to take advantage and put more points on the board.
"Offense, if we don't block, its hard to gain ground," Young said. "And it's not just the linemen, it's everybody."
The Marauders opened the second half with a 40-yard kickoff return, but again was unable to build any momentum. On Flagstaff's first possession of the second half, it looked as though Mingus' defense was going to continue its dominant ways, but on third-and-long, the Eagles connected on a 79-yard bomb to take the 14-8 lead.
"First half they played well, second half we didn't play very well defensively, we had too many breakdowns," Young said. "There were a couple of third-and-longs, we let them off the hook, we could have stayed in the game. Defense was probably on the field way too much and was worn down."
A recovered fumble by Herb Tiffany as Flagstaff was on its way to score again gave the Marauders hope.
Caron and company began the drive deep on their side of the field, and on third-and-1, a penalty was called against the Marauders. Flagstaff declined the penalty and Caron attempted a 15-yard throw to sophomore tight end Zach Simmons. The pass fell incomplete, but a passing interference call of the Eagles gave the Marauders the first down. Unfortunately, nothing came from the Eagles mistake and they took control of the ball to end the quarter.
Mingus' defense opened the final stanza with a 5-yard tackle for loss from senior linebacker Marshall Shill. On fourth-and-15, the Eagles converted one of three second-half fourth downs and connected on another touchdown pass on fourth-and-21.
That was the visitor's final touchdown of the game, but they did manage a field goal to run the score to 24-8.
Feeling a sense of urgency, the Marauders took control of the ball with five minutes remaining in the contest. Caron threw an incomplete pass to senior receiver Jesse Rios, but another passing interference call on Flagstaff gave Mingus the ball on its 38. The drive fell 1-yard shy of being converted.
The home team got the ball back with 1:39 left, and on the first play, Caron was sacked for a 12-yard loss. The senior threw to freshman Trevor Galloway and the pass was incomplete again, but Flagstaff was again called for pass interference. This time, the offense was able to capitalize on its fortunes and Caron hit Rios for a 38-yard score. The offense once again attempted a 2-point conversion, but their opponent was expecting it and intercepted the pass.
Flagstaff kneeled down on its first play to wind down the clock and end the game. The Eagles left Cottonwood with a 24-14 victory over the struggling Marauders.
Caron went 9-for-16 for 100-yards and one interception, while also tallying a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown.
Hanks led all running backs with 50-yards on nine carries, and Helsel added another 36-yards on five carries. The Marauders running game totaled 91-yards between six players. Rios and junior Garrett Storie totaled 69-and-15-yards receiving, respectively, and Simmons added 12-yards from two catches.
It was not the way the Marauders wanted to end their homecoming game, as the season has been a rough one for Young and his team. With the loss, the Marauders moved to 1-5 on the season, with their lone win coming two weeks ago at North High School.