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Red Zone Execution Achilles Heel as Skyhawks fall to Apollos 24-27 in Home Opener

Kyle Pinnell

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For the second year in a row, the Southridge Skyhawks found themselves up by 20 at home against the Sunset Apollos. For the second year in a row, the Apollos overcame that deficit late and went on to win the game. It was déjà vu all over again.

The Skyhawks (1-2)  took a 24-14 lead into halftime, but a home-opening win wasn’t in the cards as the Apollos (2-1)  scored 20 unanswered points, 13 coming in the second half, to defeat the Skyhawks 27-24 at Southridge High School on Friday night.

“It’s just one of those games where it’s a tight game between two pretty equally-balanced teams,” Southridge Head Coach Kevin Bickler said. “There are three to four plays that make a difference in the game and unfortunately they didn’t go our way the second half.”

The game all turned on its head in the third quarter when wide receiver, Keyvaun Eady, made a big play down the sideline. In trying to extend the play, Eady lost the ball at the ten-yard line. Instead of the Hawks restarting play from that point, the ball rolled perfectly straight into the back of the end zone for a touchback.

The next possession, the Apollos converted a third and ten in their own half thanks to a run from their quarterback, Callum Craig. The next set of downs, the Hawks forced the Apollos into fourth and ten near midfield. The initial ball got tipped off of an Apollos’ fingertips, but the ball fell right into the hands of a Sunset receiver who ran right into the endzone for a forty-eight-yard touchdown, trimming the Southridge lead down to 24-21.

A few possessions later, Craig found Nate Archibald for a 24-yard touchdown that put the Apollos up for good.

“They got a few breaks on offense. They had that one tip catch that went their way and sometimes that’s how it goes. It’s just the game of football, you can’t do much about it,” Southridge wide receiver Joshua Calo said.

Despite the Apollos scoring first touchdown, the Skyhawks put themselves in a good position to win the game. The Hawks scored 21 unanswered points in the first half all capped off by a touchdown from Calo.

With just under three minutes remaining in the first half, Calo was left in one-on-one coverage and took advantage of it.  With Sunset overplaying the three wide receivers on one side, Calo was able to gain separation and run into the endzone for a 41-yard touchdown.

That was the last time that the Skyhawks would score in the game.

“I was one on one on the left side of the field with the corner. I ran, gave them a little move, got some separation and Darik made a great pass,” Calo said. “Our line did a good job of blocking for him, and all I had to do was catch so my job was easy.”

Bickler thought the ball was overthrown at first but was glad to see it fall into the outstretched arms of Calo. He said they ran the same play again in the second half, but that one was overthrown by about a yard or two.

The first drive of the night for the Skyhawks was indicative of what was to come as the Skyhawks were able to march down the field and get into a goal-to-go situation. However, the Hawks couldn’t punch the ball in and had to settle for a field goal. Just as the case was all night, the Skyhawks always got close to scoring but had trouble getting the ball into the endzone.

“The effort was there; the heart was there, it just comes down to execution,” Bickler said. “ I talked to them after the game that there are just tiny things that coaches harp on a daily basis that impact execution on a certain play. Part of that is when you’re in the red zone, you got to finish.”

One Skyhawks who had a great game was senior running back Blake Sims. In the first half, Sims broke out for multiple 20 yard plays to put the Skyhawks into good positions while scoring a nine-yard touchdown himself where he stretched out to break the plane.

“Blake’s a competitor. He’s going to battle every play, and I thought our offensive line did a really good job of opening up holes for him,” Bickler said. “We’re kinda a throwing offense, but when our O-line is blocking that well and Blakes running that well, we’re going to feed him the rock.”

The Skyhawks will play on the road next Friday against Grants Pass (2-1). The next Southridge home game will be on September 28 when Mountainside makes the drive up Scholls Ferry to play against Southridge for the first time in the Andrew J. Keller Memorial Game. The Skyhawks are still searching for their first home win under Bickler.

I talked to the guys about being upset about this one, but coming Monday be ready to work because we’re a good team,” Bickler said. “We can put some wins together and put ourselves in a spot to finish a strong season and get a good playoff push.

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Red Zone Execution Achilles Heel as Skyhawks fall to Apollos 24-27 in Home Opener