BULLHEAD CITY — For the Mohave Accelerated Learning Center Patriots, Friday night was a forgettable game with a memorable halftime.
The Bagdad Sultans thumped the Patriots 54-0 at Fiesta Bowl/Firebird Field in Rotary Park in a game marked by a proposal by head coach Adam Gibson and an acceptance by his girlfriend, Ashley Willett.
The outcome of the game was decided by the time Gibson took a knee and asked Willett to marry him. Bagdad scored 24 points in the first 8:18 of the 1A West 8-man contest and led 46-0 when the teams went to opposite end zones for the halftime break.
A ruse three months in the planning had Willett holding the “winning ticket” in a “staff raffle” — a ticket “bought” by Gibson for a chance to win a gift basket. The outcome of the drawing was rigged in Gibson’s favor.
The gift basket turned out to have a bouquet of flowers. And Gibson left his team momentarily to pop the question — complete with an engagement ring — at the 50-yard-line with the crowd looking on.
“I figured she can’t say no if there are a bunch of people around,” Gibson said after the game.
Then he turned his thoughts back to the contest dominated by the Sultans.
“We knew how good they were coming in,” he said of the Sultans, who improved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in 1A West competition while dropping the Patriots to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the section. “They’re a good team.”
He said he expected the Patriots to give the Sultans a tougher test.
“The most disappointing thing is we’re not doing what we planned,” Gibson said. “Our offense fell apart. Our defense fell apart.
“We’re a young team — a lot of young players — and it kind of snowballed on us.”
The Sultans turned the ball over on their first play from scrimmage but the Patriots couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity. A 32-yard punt return by Kaylab Owings set up Bagdad’s first score, which came on a 16-yard run by senior Elias Jauregui. Rocky Sandoval’s conversion pass to Owings made it 8-0.
The Sultans recovered an onside kick and scored again less than a minute later, this time getting a 5-yard run by Carson Jeans.
A few minutes later, the Sultans’ lead grew to 16-0 on a safety, set up by back-to-back sacks by Jayse McDonald and Brady Finnerty, then a low snap that doomed a punt attempt on fourth-and-23 from the Patriots’ 2.
Owings returned the ensuing free kick 34 yards to the MALC 23 and Sandoval’s 16-yard TD pass to Connor Watson made it 24-0 with 3:42 left in the opening quarter.
A pass from sophomore quarterback Kelden Holmes to senior receiver Grant Mann, followed a few plays later by a 15-yard penalty against the Sultans, moved the Patriots to the Bagdad 31. But the Sultans, able to put pressure on Holmes most of the night, stopped the young quarterback on a fourth-down scramble, ending MALC’s first promising drive.
MALC reached Sultan territory again early in the second quarter but a holding penalty and another sack sent the Patriots back toward their own end zone.
Sandoval added to the lead with an 11-yard TD run and a 52-yard scoring pass to Owings, then Jauregui capped the first-half scoring with a 20-yard TD run and a two-point conversion to make it 46-0.
Cecil Brower scored the only TD of the second half on a 24-yard run with 2:33 to play.
MALC will celebrate its homecoming on Friday against Laughlin.