With their first three touchdowns set up by interception returns, No. 6 St. Johns defeated visiting No. 11 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran, 35-7, in the first round of the AIA Division 2A football playoffs on Friday, Nov. 8.
The victory marked the 336th career win for St. Johns head coach Mike Morgan, who tied former Blue Ridge head coach Paul Moro, who died in January, for first on the state’s all-time win list.
This Friday, Nov. 15, in the second round, St. Johns travels to Phoenix to take on No. 3 Phoenix Christian in a 7 p.m. game.
A Redskins win would not only make Morgan the winningest coach in state football history, but his team would advance to the semifinals for the second consecutive year. If so, St. Johns would take on the winner of this Friday’s No. 2 Buckeye Trivium Prep vs. No. 7 Thatcher contest on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The Redskins improve to 9-2 overall with the win against ALA.
The Coyotes scored first on a touchdown that was also set up by an interception. Aaron Bode threw a 3-yard TD pass to Maurice Chapman to take the early lead with 7:17 left in the first quarter.
It was all St. Johns after that.
Shortly after Mark Ballejos scored on a 1-yard TD and Gage Heap kicked the PAT to tie it, Ira Tullous intercepted an ALA pass and returned it 62 yards for a TD. It was the first of seven Redskin interceptions in the game. Graham Nielsen had five of those picks and Heap had one Ballejos and James Thomas each had a fumble recovery.
Tullous led St. Johns in rushing with 10 carries for 113 yards and two TD’s, including a 58-yard scamper to cap the scoring with 5:31 left in the third quarter. Ballejos had 10 carries for 44 yards. Joseph Bushman, who caught a 46-yard TD pass, had seven total tackles to lead the St. Johns defense. Ballejos and Nick Patterson combined for four quarterback sacks.