Sollenberger Classic saves ‘ho-hum’ Zero Week football

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                </div>  The high school football season in Arizona got off to a rather ho-hum start Friday night. Since this is Zero Week, when only a portion of the teams get […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The high school football season in Arizona got off to a rather ho-hum start Friday night.

Since this is Zero Week, when only a portion of the teams get started in advance of the official Week 1 start on Aug. 26, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for early upsets or season-defining contests.  In the top three divisions, 4A through 6A, there were only five games played on Friday night that featured Top 5 teams.

The combined final scores for those five games added up to a very lopsided 249-73 total.

So it was left up to the two games played on Saturday in the Sollenberger Classic to bring some excitement to the opening of the 2016 season.

And the ‘marquee’ game of the day, between Desert Edge High School and Centennial High, delivered.

But not so much in the 1 p.m. opening game of the twin bill that was played at Coconino High School in Prescott. Brophy Prep used a two-quarterback system to overwhelm Pinnacle High School in a 31-10 victory that was pretty much sealed before the third quarter ended.

Pinnacle took an early 3-0 lead, but that had evaporated before the second quarter got underway and by the time the fourth quarter rolled around the Broncos had built a 24-3 lead.

Brophy went with a sophomore quarterback, Caleb Moore, who threw for 179 yards.  But it was running back Noah Pittenger that stole the show, gobbling up 107 yards of real estate and scoring twice.  Slot receiver Robert Brooks provided the thrills with a 93-yard reception in the third quarter, finishing the game with 141 yards.

This should have been a closer game since Pinnacle was ranked No. 5 in the Sollenberger’s AZ Prep Football preseason rankings, and Brophy came in at No. 6.

But the Pioneers had to go with back-up quarterback Keegan Schenk, who replaced the injured starter, Spencer Rattler.  Schenk went 13-for-25 passing for 208 yards, but it was six team turnovers that helped keep the game out of reach.

The 6 p.m. showcase, on the other hand, lived up to its billing.

That game pitted last season’s state champion in D-I, Centennial, against the D-III title holder, Desert Edge.  This season, both teams will play in the newly-created 5A division.

And, based on last night’s performance, they could meet again in the division’s title game.

An on-side kick and a ‘Hail Mary’ pass attempt in the waning seconds of the game kept the Centennial fans at Cromer Stadium on the edge of their seats, but weren’t quite enough to avoid the 26-24 loss.

Centennial actually took the early lead and built it to a 17-7 advantage, then held the lead until the Scorpions reclaimed it midway through the third quarter.  They went up 20-17 following a Centennial fumble that was recovered by Desert Edge linebacker Roshaun Johnson, who romped 34 yards for the score.

The Scorpions’ senior quarterback, Tehran Thomas, accounted for two more scores on carries of 56 and 34 yards and finished with 110 yards on 18 carries.

Johnson scored again to give Desert Edge a 26-17 lead before Centennial’s junior QB Ruben Beltran directed a 71-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, connecting with Connor Sovacki on a 5-yard TD pass to close the gap to 26-24 with just over two minutes left to play.

Centennial tried to get the ball back with an onside kick, but the Scorpions covered it and ran the clock down to the final seconds of the game before the Coyotes got one last chance.  A long ‘Hail Mary’ pass by Beltran fell to the ground and Centennial opened 2016 with a loss after finishing a 2015 season in which it lost just two games total. Beltran finished with 147 yards passing.

Desert Edge won its first state title in football last year.  But it appears to be in a good place to take a shot at a repeat.