SNOWFLAKE, Ariz. — The Snowflake High School Lobos weren’t satisfied to sit on a 22-7 lead in the final minute of the first half of Friday night’s Arizona Interscholastic Association 3A football playoff game against River Valley.
So they didn’t.
The Lobos scored on the final play of the first half, a touchdown that took away whatever momentum the Dust Devils had built, and cruised to a 42-7 victory in the first-round game.
Terren Green, Brig Turley and Caden Cantrell scored two touchdowns apiece for the Lobos, who improved to 9-2 on the season and advanced to face Blue Ridge in the quarterfinals this week. River Valley ended the season at 7-3.
Turley scored on a 5-yard run to cap the opening drive of the game, an 11-play, 70-yard drive that consumed more than four minutes.
The drive, mostly on the ground, included an 11-yard pass from quarterback Ethan Ramage to Cantrell to convert a fourth-and-6 from the Dust Devils’ 36. Turley scored four plays later.
The Dust Devils encroached on the point-after attempt and Cantrell made them pay by plunging in for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
River Valley marched quickly into Lobo territory, getting a 42-yard run from Oscar Diaz on an option play, but the drive stalled — and the Dust Devils suffered a key blow — just a few plays later.
Sophomore running back Zach Hammett was thrown for a 2-yard loss on third-and-3 from the Snowflake 22 and suffered a knee injury that forced him to leave the game. The Dust Devils came up short by less than a yard on fourth down, turning the ball over to the Lobos.
Three plays later, the Dust Devils dodged a bullet when Nick McVicker fumbled inside the River Valley 5 at the end of a 40-yard pass play with Amaro Contreras making the recovery at the 1.
But without Hammett, one of the state’s leading rushers, River Valley’s offense sputtered. Ryson Stuart intercepted a Seth Christy pass — he returned it for an apparent touchdown but a hold during the return nullified the score. After the Lobos missed a field goal, Christy threw another interception late in the quarter with safety Shannon Hatch picking it off at the River Valley 29.
Two plays later, on the first snap of the second quarter, Green burst through a whole in the middle and went 21 yards untouched into the end zone.
The 15-0 lead grew to 22-0 a couple of minutes later when Treven Hensley blocked a River Valley punt and Turley fielded the bouncing ball in the end zone for a touchdown with 9:13 left in the half.
Hammett returned to the lineup on the next series and the Dust Devils drove to the Snowflake 19, but Hammett was forced out of bounds about 2 yards short on a fourth-and-8 play.
On River Valley’s next play from scrimmage, following a Snowflake punt, Hammett sped 68 yards down the left sideline, taking a pitch from Christy just as the quarterback was blasted by a defender, to give the Dust Devils sudden like. Johnny Delgado’s extra point made it 22-7 with just 1:11 left in the opening half.
That was enough time for the Lobos. Barely.
A 40-yard pass from Ramage to McVicker prompted the Lobos to go into scoring mode rather than settling for the two-touchdown halftime lead by running out the clock. Two more Ramage passes helped the Lobos reach the River Valley 6 and a run by Green moved the ball to the 3.
Two plays later, with time running out, Cantrell — who quarterbacks the Lobos in goal-line situations — kept the ball on a sneak, disappearing in a sea of players at the goal line. As the officials unpiled the scrum, several Dust Devils reacted as if they had stopped Cantrell short of the goal line while several Lobos reacted as if he had broken the plane for the touchdown, which, unfortunately for the Dust Devils, was the indication given by the officials as the Lobos took a 29-7 halftime lead.
River Valley never mustered much of a threat after that. The Lobos, meanwhile, got a 3-yard TD run by Green early in the third quarter and a 15-yard TD pass from Ramage to Cantrell less than three minutes later, pushing the lead to 42-7.
Hammett, who missed four offensive series in the first half, finished with his seventh 100-yard game of the season, thanks mostly to the long touchdown run. He was limited to three carries for 2 net yards in the first quarter but finished with 106 yards. He was limping noticeably after several of his carries.
Diaz, pressed into more action at running back with Hammett ailing, contributed 78 yards to the ground game.
The Dust Devils held Turley, Snowflake’s 1,000-yard rusher, to 78 yards on the night but Green gained 98 yards.