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Catalina Foothills holds on for 30-24 win over Pueblo

August 29, 2015 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365


Catalina Foothills QB Rhett Rodriguez
(Andy Morales/AZPreps365.com)

Tucson Catalina Foothills held on for a 30-24 win over Tucson Pueblo Friday night in an atmosphere that head coach Jeff Scurran aptly described as a "circus."

Catalina Foothills (1-1) and Pueblo (0-1) traded leads and punches in the first half with the Falcons eventually building a slim 17-12 lead heading into the locker room. That lead increased to 30-12 in the third quarter and it looked like Pueblo was finished but then the "circus came to town."

A fight, a few ejections, some costly penalties, an onside kick, a junior varsity quarterback and a fumble combined with a revitalized Pueblo squad made the last 10 minutes seem like it was being played under the big tent but there was something missing.

Wait for it… Yes, the lights went out with 48.5 seconds left. Can't make this stuff up.

Justin Pledger helped lead Pueblo to a 7-3 record last year but the senior quarterback left the game with about 10 minutes left, trailing 30-12. Pledger had 71 yards passing and 59 yards rushing when he left the game. His replacement was a player called up for the game as insurance. Daniel Vega.

Vega survived a fourth down situation and a couple of long third downs but it was his pass on a fourth-and-goal from the 24-yard line that brought the Pueblo crowd back in the game. Jorge Romero pulled down the pass with 5:28 left but the conversion failed and Pueblo trailed 30-18.

Romero rushed for 132 yards in the game and added 40 yards passing but his efforts couldn't overcome the lead the Falcons built. They needed more.

"This happens at almost any level," Scurran explained. "The guys feel like a call is wrong and then they feel everything is against them plus everyone, the players, coaches and referees get caught up in the moment.

The Warriors fell on the ensuing onside kick and the atmosphere continued to get a bit out of control. Even with a massive sack by Mario Trujillo, Vega once again overcame a fourth-and-17 to lead Pueblo to another touchdown on an 8-yard pass to Frankie Gomez with 2:14 left in the game.

Still, Pueblo was down 30-24 thanks to another missed conversion but Catalina Foothills fell on the onside kick this time in what looked like a game-saving play. Then came a pitch and a fumble two plays later.

Had Pueblo made any of their extra points then the field would have been very short but the fumble was recovered at the 43 with 1:15 left. That, and no time outs left, meant Romero's legs would not be a factor and Pueblo went through the air.

The Falcon defense knocked down two of Vega's passes at the line while another missed the mark causing another long fourth down situation with 59.1 seconds left. Vega let the ball fly and it looked like Romero might have wrestled the ball away from a Falcon defender inside the 10-yard line but it was ruled a dropped ball and Catalina Foothills took over for good.

Then the lights went out.

The Catalina Foothills lights are maintained offsite in Texas (again, can't make this up) and it was determined the remaining 48.5 seconds would have been used up by taking a knee twice so both coaches agreed to end the game rather than wait for another 30 minutes or so.

"We took a whipping last week," Scurran said about his 41-7 loss at Goodyear Desert Edge. "But we came out and stole the game away in the third quarter but then the circus came to town."

His quarterback, Rhett Rodriguez, led the Falcons to the 3-yard line midway through the first quarter but the drive stalled and the team settled for a 24-yard field goal to put Catalina Foothills up 3-0 with 4:49 left in the first.

Rodriguez, the son of University of Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, finished the game with 144 yards passing on nine completions and he also ran eight times for 42 yards.

But Romero was almost unstoppable in the first half and he helped Pueblo respond by leading his team down to the 4-yard line where Pledger ran it in after picking up a loose ball with 11:07 left in the first half.

The extra point was blocked but Pueblo led 6-3.

Rodriguez responded with a 79-yard drive to help retake the lead, 10-6, with 8:52 left but Pueblo came right back.

Aided by a personal foul on a long third down and a dropped interception, Romero capped off the drive with a 4-yard scamper to give Pueblo a 12-10 lead. The extra point was missed.

Catalina Foothills took the lead for good after Preston Kime scored at the other end to give the Falcons a 17-12 lead. Blake Rashad ran for another touchdown with 9:25 left in the third and then Kime ran for his second score with 4:45 left and Catalina Foothills had their 30-12 lead.

Rashad finished with a team-high 61 yards rushing while Trevor Wells added 74 yards receiving.

Brandon Sanders gathered his team together and gave them his postgame talk in the dark and reminded them of what could have been.

"One thing I saw was you could have tucked your tails and ran but you didn't," the former Arizona and NFL defender told them. "I saw some serious effort at the end. We could have taken this game. No one is going to let us win. You have to go and take it."

Sanders also did some time as an assistant at Catalina Foothills under Scurran and Scurran was happy for Sanders.

"Pueblo is a good team," Scurran added. "This is a Sanders kind of team. They played tough like him."

Pueblo will host Marana (1-0) next Friday while Catalina Foothills will travel to Vail Cienega (0-1).

Marana defeated Rio Rico 63-11 last week and Cienega lost 42-23 at Chandler Basha Friday night. Former Canyon del Oro and Pima Community College coach Pat Nugent is in his first year at Cienega.