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Cibola survives scare from Gila Ridge
A late interception by Gila Ridge sophomore safety Randall Dorsey gave the Hawks a chance at a dramatic game-winning field goal or touchdown.
The Cibola defense had other ideas.
Trailing by two points on their own 19-yard line with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left in the game, the Gila Ridge offense couldn't get anything started and the Cibola defense forced a turnover on downs to give the Raiders a 16-14 win Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
"We knew we had to come out and play hard and play Raider football, simple as that," said Cibola senior defensive lineman Samuel Charles, who had a critical tackle for an 8-yard loss on the Hawks' final drive. "You know it's coming down to the end and you know you got to give everything you got and I think we did."
On the previous Hawk possession, senior Bobby Mena took a toss 80 yards for a touchdown to cut the Raider lead to two with just less than seven minutes to go. However, the Raiders drove the ball deep into Gila Ridge territory with the help from three passes of 10 or more yards by Cibola senior quarterback Lucky Arvizo Jr., who finished the night 20 for 28 with 241 yards and two interceptions.
"We did a good job throwing the ball and getting the ball down the field and getting the first downs and eating the clock a little bit," Cibola coach Lucky Arvizo Sr. said.
"They just played good football," Gila Ridge coach Tom Hurt said of the Raiders. "They threw that out pass really well and just did a good job. I don't fault my kids. They played hard. The defense played great. It was just a good hard-fought high school football game."
The Raiders (5-4 overall, 4-0 in Division II Section IV) all but wrapped up both their fifth city title and seventh in eight years, but also a shot to go to the Division II state tournament.
"I think what makes this group special, and I told them this at the end, is that they faced some adversity – especially at the beginning of the season when we weren't getting too many victories," Arvizo Sr. said of the Raiders, who end the regular season at home against Kofa. "But they kept working hard and kept practicing hard and getting better. I guess, resilience that they've had the last couple of games."
"It's great to show that Cibola's still got it," said Cibola senior Michael Decorse-Hall, who finished with seven catches for 74 yards.
Aside from Mena's long touchdown run, the Raiders held the Hawks' offense in check for most of the night. The Hawks finished with 181 yards of total offense, including Mena's 80-yard dash. The other touchdown for Gila Ridge (3-6, 3-1) came after Cibola muffed a punt to give the Hawks the ball on the Raider 11 – and Mena scored on a 5-yard run.
Cibola got three field goals from senior Edgar Gastelum – from 31, 36 and a crucial 24-yarder that gave the Raiders a two-possession lead right before Mena's long touchdown run. The Raiders' touchdown came on a 3-yard run by junior running back Abraham Thompson in the second quarter, but the key play on the drive came when Arvizo Jr. found senior tight end Bernardo Castorena over the top for a 32-yard gain on a fourth-and-5 on the Gila Ridge 35.
The touchdown gave the Raiders only a 10-7 lead heading into halftime. Gila Ridge managed to get the ball back one last time in the fourth quarter, but on their final play – a fourth-and-3 on the Gila Ridge 41 – a scrambling Gila Ridge quarterback Brandon Kehl was pushed out of bounds to preserve the Raider win.
"That was a grind of the game," Decorse-Hall said. They gave it their all and really tested us."