Friday night the 3A newcomer Thatcher Eagles, under first-year Head Coach Dan Jones, ended the 2020 season with a 43-20 quarter-final loss to the Yuma Catholic Shamrocks.
Looking at the final score only tells you that Yuma and not Thatcher will advance to the semi-final match up with Pusch Ridge on Dec. 5.
Looking at the final numbers won't tell that for three and a half quarters the Eagles "gave as good a they got," staying within striking distance of the top ranked Shamrocks until late in the final period.
Yuma started early, turning their opening drive into a 7-0 lead.
The Eagles first drive stalled. Yuma’s second drive did not. They upped the early margin to 14-0. Thatcher answered with a six-play drive that was capped off with a Mark Wren, four-yard run, 14-7 with successful McKay Griffin PAT.
Junior Trevin Gaylord ended the next Yuma possession with an interception; three plays later Yuma returned the favor with an interception of their own as the first period waned.
The Eagles started the second period with another Yuma turnover, intercepting the Shamrock pass on the first play to start the period; again the Eagles’ drive stalled.
Sophomore punter Jacob Rasumussen pinned Yuma deep in their own territory at the Shamrock four yard-line.
Yum moved the ball steadily down the field until Eagle junior Nicholas Puzas stripped the ball from the Shamrock runner at the Eagle 21 yard-line. Thatcher was three and out following the turn-over. Yuma started at mid-field, but Gaylord would get his second turn-over of the first half with a strip of the Yuma ball carrier himself.
Yuma would rebound from the turn-over on the next possession going 55 yards on five plays moving the score to 21-7 where it would remain until halftime.
The Eagles opened the second half with a determined 14-play drive, with the Thatcher offensive line clearing the way for seniors Wren and Michael McBride to cover the 55 yards needed. McBride scored from one yard out and Griffin added the PAT; closing the gap to 21-14.
Yuma responded, however, by covering 82 yards in five plays, edging ahead 29-14 with successful two point conversion.
Again the Thatcher offensive line enabled Wren and McBride to open the final quarter with an 11-play, 51-yard drive that Wren ended with a 12-yard touchdown run. 29-20, failed two point try.
Those would unfortunately be the final points scored by the Eagles in the 2020 season.
Yuma put together a clock-devouring, five minute, 14 play, 79 yard drive that moved them ahead, 35-20, then added another touchdown late to win 43-20.
Yuma moves on to face Pusch Ridge in the semi-final game on Dec 5. The winner of that game will face the winner of the ALA Gilbert vs. Snowflake game in the state title game Dec 12.
Yuma beat PRCA 14-7 in a previous meeting on Oct. 9.
Thatcher finishes the season 5-3 and 3-1 in Region 3A South.