There was a different feeling for the Falcons heading into their Friday night matchup with Scottsdale Christian Academy last week. The coaches could feel their players’ confidence on the rise, and they pushed them to win for the first time since week two.
The Falcons varsity football team recorded five sacks, four fourth-down stops and three touchdowns compared to the Eagles’ three points on Friday, Oct. 8. The Falcons won 20-3 at home and improved their record to 3-4.
The Eagles started with the ball and completed a 30-yard pass on the first play of the game. Senior JT Despain tackled a running back for loss on second down and the Eagles had a false start on a long third down attempt. Scottsdale Christian would settle for a field goal on their opening possession.
The Falcons were forced to punt after a three and out, but the defense was ready to make another play. After the Eagles reached the Falcons’ side of the field, seniors Calvin Lupien and Alex Rieck sacked the quarterback, took the Eagles out of field goal range and forced a punt.
Quarterback Spencer Nelson found senior Savion Boone for a short pass, and Boone took it 20 yards to start the series. Later, Nelson would convert on fourth down with a 25-yard pass to Diesel Giger caught in the middle of the field. After three unsuccessful plays inside the 15-yard line, the Falcons brought the kicking unit out, only to have their field goal attempt blocked.
Lupien caused havoc for the Eagles all night, but especially in the second quarter. After the blocked field goal, Lupien recorded a tackle for loss on a second down run before sacking the quarterback on third down.
The Falcons had the ball with eight minutes left but failed to covert on fourth down. Lupien led a group of defenders on the next possession and sacked the Eagles’ quarterback again.
The Falcons got the ball back with little time left in the half and executed a flawless two-minute drill. Nelson completed two passes to Boone, the second was a 30-yard pass to the one-yard line, and Nelson ran up the middle to lead 7-3 at halftime.
“It was very impressive because its hard to practice that,” head coach Jimmy Curtis said. “Yesterday I let my assistants do everything because I wanted to set the ball for the speed of the game. I was in their face screaming, ‘alright, 10 seconds, hurry up!’ So, I put pressure on my coaches, and on my players, and they did a great job.”
Curtis also had his assistant Danny Groebner call offensive plays Friday night. This was the first time Curtis wasn’t calling plays on both sides, and instead focused on defensive play-calling.
The Falcons’ defense continued to play great in the second half. They stopped the Eagles from converting on fourth down in their first possession, and then Nelson completed a pass for a 35-yard touchdown to Boone. The Eagles blocked the point after, but the Falcons led 13-3 halfway through the third quarter.
“We just came in with a better attitude,” junior Casey Osborne said. “I feel like we’re a second half team, and I think we know that.”
The Eagles would not go away quietly and reached the Falcons’ side of the field before Lupien got another sack. The Eagles botched the snap on third down and recovered it outside of field goal range. The Eagles got most of the yardage back on third down, but Nelson was in coverage on fourth and three when the Falcons got their second fourth-down stop.
The Falcons took over behind their own 30-yard line but only needed one explosive play to score again. Nelson found junior Ryan Dhyrkopp for a catch at midfield for what would be his third touchdown of the season. Osborne provided a huge block that led Dhyrkopp to a wide open 70-yard touchdown and a huge reaction from the Falcons’ sideline. The Falcons led 20-3 with five seconds left in the third quarter.
The Falcons’ defense continued to impress in the fourth quarter, preventing the Eagles from scoring three different times. Osborne recorded his fourth interception of the season in the endzone, Boone deflected a red zone pass on fourth down and Dhyrkopp essentially ended the game with a red zone sack on fourth down.
“It felt great,” Dhyrkopp said. “Words can’t describe [the sack].”
Dhyrkopp and Osborne both spoke of an improved attitude post game. A lot of it has to do with the return of some injured players. Osborne missed last week’s game, and Alex Rieck returned for the first time in weeks. Curtis pointed out that the Falcons are undefeated when Rieck plays a full game.
The Falcons also had a new face on the field. Junior Jentezen Behnke, number 11, was allowed to play for the first time since transferring to Fountain Hills. He has experience at defensive end, but Behnke played safety for the Falcons.
Curtis was proud of his team for playing a physical and clean game. He said he knows they will have to continue playing well to have any chance at playoffs, but the most important task is this week. The Falcons host region opponent Coronado in their last home game of the season on Friday, Oct. 15. The Dons are 2-5, but their only two wins came on the road.