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Mitchell, Cibola offensive line wear out Hawks
Clinging to a one-possession lead in the fourth quarter and their playoff chances possibly hanging in the balance, Cibola senior running back Jordan Mitchell and the Raider offensive line decided it was winning time.
Mitchell carried the ball 13 times in the fourth quarter as part of a monster night and the Raiders blew open a close game late in their 34-15 win over Gila Ridge on Friday night at Raider Field.
After a 2-yard touchdown run by Gila Ridge's Kainoa Renaud cut the Raiders' lead to 21-15 with 10:35 left in the game, Mitchell rushed for 122 of his game-high 339 yards in the final quarter.
“We had to dig deep and play. We knew it was going to be a good game, we just had to go out and play harder,” said Mitchell, who rushed for 324 yards in a 28-0 win over Gila Ridge last season. “I just told my team we have to do this as a team. If you block for me, I'll do my best to get yards and score.”
The win secures the fourth straight city championship for the Raiders and the sixth in seven years.
“It's all the players,” Cibola coach Lucky Arvizo Sr. said. “They've done a great job over the years in practice and playing hard. That's always a goal that they have.”
More importantly, the win could have big playoff implications for the Raiders. Entering the game, Cibola (6-3) was No. 20 in Arizona Interscholastic Association Division I Power Points, and the state tournament fields a 16-team bracket. However, the top three teams from each of the three sections automatically qualify for state, and the Raiders are currently No. 3 in Section I. Meanwhile, Gila Ridge (6-3) was No. 18 in AIA Division II Power Points and, being No. 7 in their section, the only way the Hawks could make the state tournament is by being in the top 16 in the state. The new Power Points are released Tuesday.
“We'll control what we need to control and come out on Fridays and see what happens,” Arvizo Sr. said.
With the Gila Ridge rushing game unable to get going, Hawks senior quarterback Scotty Nickerson went 19 of 32 with 212 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His favorite target was senior Alec Wilson, who had five catches for 81 yards. Gila Ridge rushed 22 times for 55 yards — 28 of them coming off a pair of runs in the first half.
“We did really well, with the exception of one or two plays, I thought we did excellent,” junior linebacker Josh Hansen said.
It appeared that neither team wanted the win early in the game when both the Hawks and Raiders fumbled into the endzone for a touchback. Cibola started the game with a three-and-out, and the Hawks drove from their own 7 and after 17 plays ended inches from the goalline. However, Nickerson fumbled on a quarterback sneak to give the Raiders the ball on their own 20-yard line. The Raiders responded by driving 76 yards on eight plays but Mitchell was stripped and Gila Ridge's Trevor Hamner recovered it in the endzone.
“I thought I was down,” Mitchell said. “When I was going down, they stripped it out.”
Cibola scored on their next possession by a 2-yard sneak by junior quarterback Lucky Arvizo Jr., who went 9 for 12 in the air for 101 yards and a touchdown and added another 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The Hawks responded by driving 80 yards in less than three minutes, capped by a 19-yard connection from Nickerson to Wilson. Nickerson found senior tight end Kevin Vizcarra on the two-point conversion to give Gila Ridge an 8-7 lead into halftime.
“Gila Ridge did a good job in that first half on offense going on some long drives and keeping our offense off the field. They had some key third downs conversions,” Arvizo Sr. said.
On Cibola's first possession of the second half, Arvizo Jr. found sophomore receiver Michael Decorse-Hall in the left corner for an 18-yard touchdown. When the Raiders got the ball back, Mitchell charged up the middle then down the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown to put the Raiders up 21-8.
Gila Ridge answered by going 85 yards on eight plays, capped by Renaud's 2 yard run, to cut the game to 21-15. Cibola responded by going 90 yards on nine plays — seven of which were runs by Mitchell, including a 3-yard score with 6:35 left. After a Hawks' three-and-out, the Raiders went 54 yards on nine plays — six Mitchell runs — and Arvizo Jr. pounded it in to finish off the scoring for the Raiders.
“Our O-Line did a good job in the second half,” Arvizo Sr. said. “We were getting 4-5 yard a pop and you never know, Jordan might break one once in a while.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.