Mingus Union High School’s football team claimed a share of its 20th region title after a 56-0 domination at Coconino High School on Friday, Oct. 20.
The Marauders’ [5-4, 5-1] formula of tough defense and running the ball led them to a third consecutive win. They were up 36-0 at halftime and never looked back.
“We’ve improved, we’ve really improved. After that Bradshaw game we looked at ourselves in the mirror and decided we wanted to be better on the line of scrimmage and the last three weeks, offense and defense, we’ve just dominated the line of scrimmage,” Marauders head coach Bob Young said. “In July when we were at California camp we talked about having an opportunity to do that so we’ve at least got a share of that. It’s a big deal to these guys.”
Despite the victory, whether or not they claim the outright title comes down to a result out of their control: Prescott High School at Bradshaw Mountain High School on Friday, Oct. 27.
The winner of that game will also improve to 5-1 in region play. The Marauders have the tiebreaker over Prescott from their 38-6 win on Oct. 6. But Bradshaw Mountain owns the tiebreaker over Mingus from the 45-16 homecoming loss on Sept. 29.
In order to qualify for the Conference 4A state playoffs, the No. 19 Marauders almost certainly need to be outright champions.
Against the Panthers, senior running back Tyler Kelly had an 85-yard score waived off for a hold on the second play from scrimmage, and the offense eventually punted the ball away.
But the defense earned the ball back, with senior defensive back Marcos Valenzuela tipping a third-down pass to force a punt.
The defense had two sacks, two fumble recoveries, two near-interceptions and forced nearly 10 punts.
“Our defense has been the heart of our team,” junior linebacker Kendrew Streck said. “We really started getting along and became a brotherhood and we just have the mentality of no one is scoring on us, so we’ve just been stepping it up.”
On the second play of the second drive, senior running back Martin Soria ran 67 yards for the Marauders’ first of six rushing touchdowns.
Soria, who sat out the first five games of the year due to his transfer from 1A Williams High School, added a four-yard score on a shovel pass at the start of the second quarter after Kelly recovered a fumble with 29 seconds left in the first. It was Soria’s fourth touchdown in three games.
“I told myself I’ve got to pick up my game,” Soria said. “A lot of my motivation comes from my family; they come to watch me play. I give it all out on the field for them. I came a long way, the appeal worked out in my favor. I’m working man — it’s time to go get some.”
Kelly then scored on the Marauders’ next three possessions. He had running scores of 35 and 28 yards, plus a 60-yard receiving touchdown as time expired. The three scoring drives totaled only nine plays and just over three minutes of possession.
“We didn’t let up. Right out of the gate we had two touchdowns called back first series and we just kept playing the game,” Young said. “Tyler Kelly dominated the first half.”
In the second half it was junior Alex Nelson’s turn.
Coconino received the second-half kickoff and had one of its biggest plays on the night, a 50-yard catch-and-run from the flat by senior running back Justin Brown.
Nelson scooped and scored on the very next play, going 63 yards, to make it 43-0 with 9:59 left in the third.
Then a short Panthers punt gave Mingus a short field to work with. Nelson rushed 39 yards to score on the second play of the drive. He finished with 125 yards on nine carries.
“Alex Nelson didn’t get a lot of carries but every time he ran the ball he had big plays,” Young said. “Martin didn’t have a lot of carries but he had big plays. We just had a lot of big plays on offense.”
Marauders junior running back Colby Fanning scored from 10 yards out on the next possession to round out the scoring.
The fourth quarter was scoreless. Sophomore Peter Calandra went under center and the second string played out the final frame.
Junior quarterback Antoine Zabala was five for five passing for 95 yards and a touchdown. Kelly had 139 yards on 11 carries.
Mingus started the season 0-3, playing against three of 4A’s top 10 teams. Next up it has No. 2 Sunrise Mountain High School, and hopes to use the growth it has shown to be more competitive.
“Sunrise is real good, but our team is different so I think we’ll be able to compete,” Streck said.
That matchup also marks senior night, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, when 13 seniors will suit up for one last time on Bright Field.