BULLHEAD CITY — Today’s game against Coconino technically isn’t homecoming for the Mohave High School Thunderbirds, but it is in the mind of head coach Rudy Olvera.
“We come home,” Olvera said of the game scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. at Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse. “The last time we were home was our homecoming (a 70-49 win over Dysart on Sept. 20), then back-to-back road homecomings (at Flagstaff and Mingus Union). So after three straight homecomings, we’re coming back home to play.”
Mohave has won all three of those homecomings, posting back-to-back come-from-behind one-point victories while riding a three-game winning streak. The T-birds are 3-3 overall and 2-0 in 4A Grand Canyon Section play. Coconino is 6-0 overall and 3-0 in 4A Grand Canyon games.
The dramatic wins — 21-20 at Flagstaff and 29-28 against Mingus at Cottonwood — have done wonders for the T-birds’ attitude.
“We’re excited about what we’re doing,” Olvera said. “We know that when we do it right, we do it well.”
“It,” for the most part, is running the football.
“We do a pretty good job running the football,” he agreed.
Indeed. The T-birds run for 1,581 yards in six games, an average of nearly 264 yards a game. For the season, the T-birds have passed for 246 yards — 41 yards an outing. Mohave has run 271 plays on the ground to only 43 pass attempts.
As good as they are at running it, the T-birds will be facing a team that is a bit better. The Panthers are averaging just over 300 yards rushing per game and a whopping 7.9 yards a carry.
Junior running back Zach Bennett needs just 2 yards to reach 1,000 for the season and has scored 17 of the Panthers’ 29 rushing touchdowns.
“They run the ball well. They run the double wing,” Olvera said.
For Mohave, junior Ryan Porter has run for 596 yards and eight touchdowns. Marc Hightower has 445 yards for the season while Austin Foster ran for more than 100 yards — as did Porter — last week against Mingus Union.
The Coconino-Mohave game is the first of two ganesgame in the fieldhouse’ second doubleheader of the season. River Valley plays host to Northwest Christian in the second game, scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
River Valley enters with a 5-1 overall record after winning its first 3A West Section game last week by blasting Kingman 49-14. Northwest Christian is also 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the section, meaning tonight’s winner will have the lead in the section standings.
The Dust Devils got a big game from Oscar Diaz last week. He ran for three touchdowns while Kingman tried to shut down RVHS running back Zach Hammett. Hammett still managed to run for a touchdown and also took the second-half kickoff 80 yards for another score.
“We played a physical brand of football for sure,” said RVHS coach Jonathan Clark. “They really focused on shutting down Zach Hammett and in doing so, allowed us to get to the edge (with Diaz).”
Hammett leads the Devils’ ground game with 691 yards — 115.2 yards per game and 8.2 yards per carry. Diaz has 213 yards for the year and is averaging 7.3 yards per attempt.
Senior quarterback Seth Christy has thrown for 445 yards and two touchdowns and also has run for 110 yards and three scores.
Northwest Christian senior Austin Young, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound running back, has gained 988 yards for the season to lead the Crusaders. Sophomore Grant Gibson has run for 322 yards and 11 touchdowns while two quarterbacks — senior Easton Meier and sophomore Blake Sparks — each have passed for more than 300 yards.
Mohave Accelerated also will be at home — really at home — today for its homecoming game against Laughlin. The nonconference 8-man contest will be played at The Battlefield, MALC’s on-campus field, with kickoff scheduled for 3 p.m.
MALC is 2-5 overall following last week’s home loss to Bagdad at Fiesta Bowl/Firebird Field in Rotary Park.
Laughlin comes in at 4-2 following a 49-6 win over Mountain View Christian, the Cougars’ second lop-sided victory over the Saints this season.
MALC coach Adam Gibson tried to build his team’s spirits after the loss to Bagdad, a game in which little went right for the young Patriots.
“Hold your heads up,” Gibson told them, then asked them to shift focus to the game against Laughlin. “Be that football player you always wanted to be.”
Gibson said the Patriots have had their share of positives and negatives this season. It’s all part of the maturation process for a relatively young team.
“We have good athletes,” Gibson said. “We have young athletes. They are having to learn on the fly. We’re playing a bunch of young kids and they’re trying hard. They’re pulling for each other. They want to succeed. All players do.”