PHOENIX — One of the state’s oldest high school football rivalries was put on display in an encore edition this season — in the Division 2A semifinals at Arcadia High School on Saturday, Nov. 17 — as No. 7 St. Johns met No. 3 Round Valley with a spot in this weekend’s state title game at stake.
The outcome was not in doubt for long, as the Elks took a 31-0 lead in the second quarter on the way to a 44-12 victory.
Round Valley will face No. 1 Thatcher for a second time this season as well. The Eagles, a 35-7 winner against No. 5 Phoenix Christian in Saturday's other semifinal, are heading to the 2A final in hopes of winning a third-straight state championship, something which hasn’t been done in 2A/Div. 5 since St. Johns accomplished the feat in 1992-94.
In last weekend’s semifinal, three Redskin turnovers led directly to Round Valley touchdowns.
Elk junior Tayvin Bevell intercepted a St. Johns pass on the game’s first series and returned it 60 yards for a TD to open the scoring.
Bevell said his teammates came out ready to play.
“We had a great week of practice. We were prepared. Our coaches told us to get our minds set,” Bevell said. “(Getting back to the title game) feels good because last year we should have gone, we just messed up. It feels good to make it back.”
Round Valley junior kicker Sergio Camunez capped the Elks’ next drive with a 31-yard field goal. Camunez was three-of-four kicking field goals in the game. Had his 40-yard field goal attempt in the final minute of the first half not sailed a couple of yards wide left, every Elk series (except at the end of the game) would have ended in scores.
Round Valley used three quarterbacks in the game. Starting senior Kason Woolf capped a pair of first-half drives with TD runs.
Senior receiver Hunter Ziegler, who led the Elks with two catches for 75 yards, caught a 32-yard pass from Dylan Jordan on a halfback option late in the second quarter. It gave Round Valley a 31-0 lead following a point-after kick by Camunez.
The Redskins got on the board on the ensuing possession when Kyren Ulibarri caught a pass from Ramon Sanchez in double coverage and broke a couple of tackles the rest of the way for a 52-yard touchdown.
Camunez added field goals of 40 and 30 yards in the third quarter to put the Elks up 37-6 entering the final period.
Kaleb Newby caught a 4-yard pass from Bevell in the first minute of the fourth and Camunez added a PAT to cap Round Valley’s scoring.
The final score of the game came on a 2-yard TD run by Sanchez, which capped an 80-yard drive by the Redskins.
St. Johns head coach Mike Morgan said the Elks’ speed and strength was key to the outcome.
“Their speed is overwhelming. You can tell they spend a lot of time in the weight room and a lot of time there in the off-season,” Morgan said. “If I can’t change the weight room and get our kids faster, this is going to be a repititious thing. You can’t get to the final four and have the mistakes we did. Their speed and quickness and overall ability was our demise.”
The coach said he wasn’t sure at the beginning of the season that his team would even make the playoffs.
“We only had five seniors this year and two of them who haven’t played football hardly at all. It’s a young class, there’s a lot of good kids,” said the coach. “They are not going to get better if they don’t get in the weight room and get the speed training going, and there’s too many excuses when it comes to that.”
Sanchez led St. Johns on Saturday with 82 rushing yards on 30 carries and 69 yards on three-of-seven passing, including two interceptions.
“Ramon is a tough kid. He is one of those kids who gets in the weight room and works on his agility and his speed,” Morgan said. “There are several others who could be a lot better if they would get in there.”
The 2A state championship game will kick off at 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23, at Gilbert Campo Verde High School.
The Elks (11-2) hope to do better than on Oct. 19, when Thatcher (13-0) won 42-3 in the Round Valley Dome.
Friday will mark the third state title game appearance for the Elks under head coach Marcus Bell. Round Valley last won a state championship in 1985 (a 21-21 tie with Snowflake in the 3A final) under head coach Tot Workman.
Arizona Interscholastic Association
Division 2A Football
First round at high seeds
No. 1 Thatcher 56, No. 16 North Pointe Prep 0
No. 9 Benson 46, No. 8 Alchesay 42
No. 5 Phoenix Christian 35, No. 12 Scottsdale Christian 21
No. 4 Morenci 57, No. 13 Parker 6
No. 3 Round Valley 45, No. 14 Pima 0
No. 6 Arizona Lutheran 55, No. 11 Chandler Prep 7
No. 7 St. Johns 29, No. 10 Willcox 8
No. 2 Trivium Prep 36, No. 15 Red Mesa 26
Second round at high seeds
Thatcher 50, Benson 6
Phoenix Christian 27, Morenci 14
Round Valley 49, Ariz. Lutheran 7
St. Johns 47, Trivium Prep 7
At Scottsdale Chaparral High
Thatcher 35, Phoenix Christian 7
At Phoenix Arcadia High
Round Valley 44, St. Johns 12
At Gilbert Campo Verde High
Thatcher vs. Round Valley, 3 p.m.