The Sand Devils football team fell to 1-1 after losing to the Coconino Panthers 21-14 in a game filled with costly Sand Devils injuries.
The Sand Devils defense stopped the Panthers cold on their first two possessions.
On the Sand Devils second possession, they found themselves facing a third and 12 from their own 20-yard line when their quarterback Jacob Doyle, on a designed quarterback keeper, found a seam in the defense and broke through into open field carrying the ball 80 yards into the end zone.
He followed his brilliant run with a successful pass to running back Kele Meredith on the PAT, giving his team a 8-0 lead with two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Panthers offense answered quickly advancing the ball to the Sand Devils 21-yard line on two runs. Two plays later, their quarterback ran it in from the 4-yard line with 14 seconds left in the first quarter. They missed their kick attempt on the PAT.
The Sand Devils offense, starting from their own 21, advanced the ball to the Panther’s 39-yard line, but their drive ended there after a Doyle fumble was recovered by Coconino.
A sack for negative 14 yards by Sand Devils Jeremy Tallsalt ended the Panther’s next drive, however the Panthers put together a successful 70-yard drive on their next possession adding another touchdown in the final minute of the first half. A successful run play on the PAT gave them a 14-8 lead going into halftime.
The Sand Devils traveled to Flagstaff without Hayden Gracia, who was sick. Gracia plays critical roles on both offense and defense and his absence was notable. The Sand Devils roster woes worsened in the final minutes of the second quarter when Doyle injured his collarbone. Doyle was replaced at quarterback by Gabe Gomez.
The Sand Devils first two possessions of the second quarter ended in pass interceptions, the second of which the Panthers capitalized on adding another touchdown and extra point to expand their lead 21-8.
The Sand Devils defense held tight on their next trip to the field and after a terrible Panther’s punt, the Sand Devils offense started their next drive on the Panther’s 32-yard line. A 12-yard sack backed them up to their 44 but on the subsequent play Meredith made it around the left corner and ran it all the way into the end zone. After a failed PAT they trailed 21-14 midway through the fourth quarter.
The Sand Devils defense held again with the Panthers punting after three plays, but their offense sputtered after Gomez, still substituting for Doyle at quarterback, tore the ligaments in his ankle. He was replaced by third-string quarterback Jakob Crank.
The Panther’s ran the ball on most downs on their final possession of the game to run out the clock.
Head football Coach Mitchell Stephens is hopeful that Doyle will return to the field this Friday. He also expects Gracia to return as well. Gomez, has severe ligament damage to his ankle and is not expected to return this season.
Meredith was one for one passing for 35 yards. He also had one reception for 21 yards and 17 carries for 133 yards and one touchdown. Gomez was two for eight passing with two interceptions. Doyle was zero for two passing. He had 7 carries for 113 yards and one touchdown. Dainian Bitsinnie had one reception for 35 yards. Kimball Begay had one reception for 17 yards.
The Sand Devils travel to Winslow this Friday. Kick off is at 6 p.m.