Senior quarterback Josh Eckley scrambled to find the end zone twice for Tempe Marcos de Niza on Friday night (Nov. 15).
It was the 13 of his 21 remaining carries that proved to be much more difficult. Scottsdale Chaparral tackled him for losses on those 13 occasions and he finished with just 18 total yards on 23 carries as the third-seeded host Firebirds pinned a 35-21 setback on Eckley and his sixth-seeded Padres teammates in a Division II quarterfinal game.
The victory by Chaparral atoned for the only blemish on its schedule (11-1), a 56-45 loss to Marcos in the second week of the regular season, and sent the Firebirds to next week’s semifinals.
Chaparral will face second-seeded Gilbert Mesquite next Friday (Nov. 22) at Gilbert High. The other D-II semifinal will feature top-seeded Tucson Salpointe Catholic against surprising No. 12 seed Glendale Deer Valley at Marana High School.
“Our defense played awesome,’’ said Chaparral coach Dave Huffine. “We had to try to put pressure on Josh. He is a heck of a football player.’’
It was on this same field that Eckley ripped the hearts out of the Firebirds when he ran for a touchdown on the final play of their regular-season game a year ago.
Not this time. He also struggled to find his passing targets most of the time, completing 9 of 20 passes for 178 yards.
Chaparral’s offense, meanwhile, was a bit more consistent.
Senior receiver Izzy Simpson had a big game with nine catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. Senior running back/receiver Tyler Whiley scored three TDs on short yardage.
Huffine pointed to a key defensive play late in the first half that gave his team some momentum the rest of the way.
The score was tied at 7 and Marcos (7-5) appeared to be driving for the go-ahead score. But the Padres fumbled the ball at the Chaparral 6 and the Firebirds recovered with 3:57 left.
Chaparral and Marcos traded possessions again, but when Marcos had to give the ball up on a punt, it went just 13 yards and gave Chaparral the ball at the Marcos 42.
On the Firebirds’ first play from scrimmage, junior quarterback Sean Paul Brophy found Simpson along the right sideline and Simpson did the rest, sprinting for the 42-yard score to give Chaparral a 14-7 lead at halftime.
Eckley, who scored on a 29-yard run for Marcos’ first score, tied it at 14 with a 9-yard burst with 8:28 left in the third.
Chaparral went on to take the lead for good on a 1-yard run by Whiley with 3:45 left in the third.
Then the Firebirds pounced on another fumble, this time at the Marcos 9, and Elijah Castro gave Chaparral its second TD within 24 seconds on a 9-yard run for a 28-14 lead. Whiley scored on another 1-yard run to make it 35-14 with 11:06 left in the game, and Eckley cut the margin to 35-21 with a 5-yard scoring pass to Luke Nguyen a few minutes later.