San Manuel falls in double-OT thriller

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Michael Ochoa and Gabriel Velasquez block the ball. Photo by Melissa Joliat, SMHS

  The now No. 15-ranked San Manuel football team couldn’t convert a game-tying two-point conversion in the second overtime of last Friday night’s game at Willcox, resulting in the end of the Miners’ six-game winning streak after the 46 – 44 defeat.

  The Cowboys, now No. 12, benefitted from a questionable call in the second overtime. According to San Manuel head coach Daniel Williams, the Miners’ defense stopped a Willcox runner short of the goal line. One referee ruled it a touchdown, while the other ruled it short. After a conference, the referee called it a score.

  Still, the Miners’ had a chance to send the game to a third overtime.

  “We’re disappointed we lost, but I’m proud of my team for sticking in there and fighting until the very end,” Williams told the Miner. “We didn’t come out like we expected to and we allowed Willcox to keep the score close. In part, we did it to ourselves.”

  The Miners’ defense, which intercepted five passes and recorded nine-and-a-half sacks in the game, couldn’t stop the big plays, which allowed the Cowboys to hang around.

  “We made key mistakes on big plays,” Williams said. “They were able to get behind our defense on a couple plays.”

  Senior middle linebacker Gabe Velasquez, among the national leaders with 127 total tackles, once again led the Miners with 16 tackles. Michael Ochoa, a junior, had a team-high three sacks. Rey Martinez had one-and-a-half while Bridger Davis, Jose Damien, Velasquez, Luis Chavez, and Armando Esatrada had one apiece.

  Martinez, Benny Laguna, Colby Johnston, AJ Castillo III, and Alejandro Camacho each picked off a Willcox pass.

  Running back Christian Velasquez, who ranks fifth nationally with 1,933 rushing yards, ran for 210 yards and five touchdowns against the Cowboys. It was his fifth game this season with 200 yards or more. He now has 31 rushing scores on the year, which ranks third in the country, per MaxPreps.

  Sophomore quarterback Caleb Quintero was 12-of-24 for 246 yards and a touchdown. Martinez, a junior, caught three passes for 112 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown reception.

  The Miners finish the regular season with two home games beginning with Bisbee Oct. 20.

“It’s our Homecoming so we have to step up and play our game,” Williams said. “We should be able to come out with a win.”

  The season-finale against No. 5 Santa Cruz could be for the region title and a playoff berth.

“Santa Cruz is going to be a really tough game,” Williams said.

  A win against Bisbee almost assures the Miners a playoff spot. The top-16 teams qualify for the 2A playoffs.

  The Homecoming kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Andy Luberda (995 Posts)

Andrew Luberda began writing for Copper Area News Publishers (CANP) in February 2013 after working 15 years in Healthcare Financial Management. Andy covers sports for 11 high schools. His stories are published in Copper Basin News, San Manuel Miner and Superior Sun, in addition to the San Tan Valley Daily PRSS and CopperArea websites. Additionally, he has written human interest stories and business profiles. In May 2012, he earned an AAS in Sports Management at Central Arizona College before graduating with a BS in Communication from Arizona State University in 2014. He and his wife, Kelli, have three sons – AJ, Kyle, and Kade.


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