The 3A state championship matchup this year was the same as last year: Snowflake against Yuma Catholic. The winner was the same as well.
Both teams boasted a stalwart defense. The old sports adage “defense wins championships” proved to be true as Snowflake prevailed 10-3 Saturday night.
The Snowflake team this season had the ability to steamroll the opposition most of the time. But multiple times this season, it played tougher teams that forced the Lobos to dig deep and reach a new level.
In both of its final two games Snowflake had to fight back after being down at halftime. This attribute is what sports fans affectionately call “having heart.” Championship teams must have heart and they must be able to believe in themselves and push to give every ounce of effort. No player epitomized this more than Caden Cantrell, who played the entire game at Gilbert Campo Verde High School with a broken toe.
From the beginning, Snowflake’s defensemen had their hands full trying to stop Yuma Catholic’s juggernaut of a running back, Devon Black. Black was powerful and gained consistent yards after the initial tackle.
Jacob Wagner stepped up big by giving constant pressure to the Shamrocks’ quarterback. He even got a sack in the first half.
Yuma Catholic charged down the field and displayed some of the great passing and running its offense is known for. But the Snowflake defense has a way of rising up as its opponents get closer to scoring.
After a good defensive series featuring Matthew Brimhall, the Shamrocks were forced to kick a field goal for their only points and a 3-0 lead on the game’s opening drive.
Snowflake had difficulty getting its running game going early. When the Lobos were forced to punt, a trick play ensued. Sam Crockett held onto the ball, faked a handoff to his running back and scrambled to his right. As the defenders closed in around him, Crockett tossed the ball over their heads and into the waiting hands of Davyn McCray.
Unfortunately for the Lobos, they couldn’t get a touchdown after this play. When Crockett attempted a field goal, his kick was partially blocked and the ball couldn’t reach its mark.
On the Shamrocks’ next drive, they showed amazing passes and fought down the field. They looked dominant until the Lobos defense cracked down suddenly and put a stop to the forward progression.
The Lobos must have discovered something at that point because they completely shut down the Yuma Catholic passing game after that.
On offense, Snowflake failed to gain even 10 yards and were forced to punt the ball again.
Yuma Catholic advanced on the next drive. Again, the defense showed up big when its opponents got close to scoring. This time Bradden Lewis saved his team by blocking a field goal attempt.
The Lobos failed to score on their final drive of the half, but Jace LeSueur intercepted a wild pass that prevented the opposition from getting into scoring position.
In the second half, Snowflake ran the ball well. Camden Brimhall gained consistent yards, but the guy who found the most success running was Rhett Wengert.
Wengert battled the opposition with flashy moves that helped him gain huge yards.
Wengert broke free and had the open field ahead of him with one defender trailing. He was within 3 yards of a touchdown when the Yuma Catholic player stripped the ball from his hands and recovered the ball for a touchback.
Defensively, the Lobos looked like a well-oiled machine after halftime. They stopped the next couple drives from the Shamrocks barely letting up 10 yards between the two possessions.
Wengert created offense both blocking for his players and running extremely well.
Brimhall ran like a monster when he got a full head of steam behind him. Defenders bounced off him and he broke through for large gains multiple times.
Behind those two runners the Lobos got the only touchdown courtesy of Wengert.
Slade Fish delivered an emphatic tackle on the ensuing punt return and the defense bore down on the desperate Yuma Catholic offense.
Jordan Mowers and Clayton Smith capitalized on opportunities to harass the quarterback.
Kaiden Brewer caused a critical fumble that resulted in a turnover and Snowflake gained possession with the score at 7-3.
Wengert took on the heavy running load gaining big yards a piece at a time. Then a 35-yard reception by Noah Baum put Snowflake in scoring position.
Crockett came up big again, this time making the field goal. The score stood at 10-3. The final two minutes saw the Shamrocks fighting to get down the field and score, but the defensive pressure was too much. Football is a game of inches. When the Yuma Catholic quarterback couldn’t find a receiver, he rushed toward the sideline to reach a first down. He slipped out of bounds to stop the clock. He came up mere inches short of a first down.
With that turnover on downs, the Snowflake Lobos became back-to-back state champions. Many of the players now boast two state championship rings. It has been a historic season for Snowflake, and few teams among all divisions in the state can boast two titles in the last five years.