There was no bigger win so far in this high school football season than Maryvale High School‘s 52-0 victory over Carl Hayden High in the second game on the schedule. It was Maryvale’s first win after a long 32-game drought.
But the Panthers lost their next two games and the glory of that historic win has begun to dim.
Over the weekend, the Corona del Sol High School program stepped into the void with a new rags-to-riches story. The Tempe school ran its record to 4-0 with a 21-18 victory over Tucson’s Sahuaro High.
While a 4-0 start is a noteworthy achievement in itself, these wins are particularly significant since when the season began the Aztecs had not enjoyed a victory since the opening game of the 2014 season. A 30-27 win over Buena High on August 29 of that year was the last time Corona was able to have a post-game celebration, finishing the 2014 season with a 1-9 record.
Corona made a big statement in this season’s opening game with a 35-7 win over Westwood High School, and then put up 55 points to knock off an undefeated St. Mary’s High School team and rolled over Buena, 49-3.
So the three-point margin in Friday’s win over Sahauro is the first time a team has come closer than four touchdowns to slowing the explosive start that had moved the Aztecs into the No. 7 spot in Division II.
Sahauro was unable to find a way to stop Corona’s run game as the Aztecs piled up 320 yards. More specifically, the Cougars couldn’t stop senior running back Mason Carroll who stormed his way through the Sahauro defense for 163 yards. And that was with splitting the work load with junior fullback Cameron Brice. Carroll had 21 carries, while Brice’s number was called 18 times, which he used to contribute 68 yards.
The emergence of Carroll and Brice is largely responsible for Corona’s resurgence this year. Carroll was averaging 3.7 yards a carry last year, but is rambling along at a 9.5 clip this season; Brice is up from 4.7 to 10 yards per carry.
Team averages have grown as well, with the Aztecs improving from 109 yards/game passing in 2014 to 127 this year, and the running game up more than 100 yards a game, from just 129 last year to 276.7 so far this season.
And Corona quarterback Austin Freese is having a great senior season so far, with his passing proficiency at a .722 clip. With 380 yards already in the books, he has the potential for a 1,000-yard season.
But the play of the game last Friday had to be the kick-off return by Sahauro’s Nikolas Fountain. The junior running back was able to cut the lead to 21-18 with an 88-yard return late in the waning minutes of the game. Had the Cougers been able to recover the following onside kick, they might have been able to pull out a win.
Now Corona will try to avoid the pitfall that Maryvale suffered, reverting back to its previous losing ways. That test will come on Friday when the Aztecs travel to O’Connor High School to take on a 3-2 Eagles team that is on a roll after winning the last two games by a combined score of 85-22.
Corona’s challenge to keep that win streak alive is getting to be more difficult by the week.