Borrowing from former Arizona Cardinals’ head coach Dennis Green during a 2006 postgame Monday Night Football media conference tirade that is now a beer commercial, “The Bears are what we thought they were. They’re what we thought they were, now if you want to crown them, then crown their (butt). But they are who we thought they were. And we let ’em off the hook.”
A Longhorn football coach would never come close to duplicating what Green mouthed in that now infamous rant, but there are those convinced River Valley is who we thought they were — an up and coming team that could make noise in the Division IV or “state” tournament.
With a 27-7 win over Payson on Oct. 14 in Longhorn Stadium, River Valley is 6-2 on the campaign and seemingly destined for an automatic bid into the postseason.
“River Valley is a legit team,” said PHS coach Byron Quinlan. “They have some good young skill position players.”
Prior to Friday’s showdown, scouting reports indicated the Dust Devils were a well-rounded team led by freshman running back Brandon Long.
Just as scouted, the RV attack spread the wealth around with five players breaking into the scoring column on four touchdowns and a field goal.
Also, Long enjoyed a banner day rushing, for a team-high 126 yards on 15 carries to lead a potent rushing attack that ground out 376 yards on the evening.
In fact, River Valley threw only three passes in the win.
“Their ground game kept our offense off the field and limited our opportunities (to score),” said Quinlan.
The Horns inability to hold the Dust Devils’ bevy of backs in check can be attributed to poor tackling, which allowed Long, sophomore quarterback Josh Advocate and their running mates to reel off extra yards.
“We were not breaking down, we were up too high and just didn’t tackle well,” said Quinlan.
While the final tally was lopsided in River Valley’s favor, the Horns were in the hunt early on as the two teams fought to a 7-7 dead knot at the end of the opening quarter.
Payson scored on tailback Cade DeSpain’s dive play over right tackle behind blocks by Cody Crisp and Tanner Savage.
From that point on, however, River Valley continued to roll, taking a 14-7 halftime lead and expanding the cushion to 20 points by game’s end.
Quinlan says the loss has caused “a lot of hurt” among the players, mostly because the team falls to 3-5 on the season and is teetering on the edge of elimination from the state tournament title chase.
The coach is, however, hoping the team can sneak into the postseason with wins in the final two games of the season.
And that’s entirely possible because clashes against Coronado and Globe (both 3-5) are very winnable, considering both have struggled this year.
In other D-IV games around the state on Friday:
Mingus 12, Prescott 10
Winslow 21, Coconino 13
Campo Verde 17, Florence 14
Snowflake 34, Round Valley 6
Yuma Catholic 46, Parker 7
Buckeye 48, Tonopah Valley 7
San Tan Foothills 52, Coolidge 50
Monument Valley 12, Ganado 6
Show Low 47, Safford 27
Blue Ridge 39, Apache Junction 0
Seton Catholic 47, Valley Christian 0
Peoria 49, Wickenburg 0
Window Rock 29, Page 23
Alchesay 65, San Carlos 8
Chino Valley 48, Sedona Red Rock 20
Saguaro 56, Coronado 0
Fountain Hills 53, Cortez 0
Empire 62, Tombstone 14
Estrella Foothills 28, Antelope 28
Higley 57, Combs 0
Catalina 32, Rio Rico 7
Chinle 58, Rough Rock 0
Red Mesa 42, Tuba City 26
Globe 51, Baboquivari 0