11/16/2012 6:01:00 AM Will hubris undo Kingman Academy's title dreams? Eliminating overconfidence part of the game plan for Tigers
Kingman Academy’s defense will be one of the keys for the Tigers in Saturday’s 4A Charter Athletic Association championship game against Phoenix Southpointe. The Tigers lost to Southpointe in September, but picked up a 46-6 win in October when the teams met again.
KINGMAN - A year ago, Kingman Academy was in the same position they are this week - confident heading into the Charter Athletic Association's state title game.
But the Tigers don't want to repeat last year's mistake. They underestimated their opponent, resulting in a 60-37 loss to Mesa Heritage.
The loss still stings for this year's seniors. They haven't forgotten the feeling of seeing their shot at an undefeated season shattered into a million pieces.
"It's always a bad thing to get that loss at the end," said senior Ty Sherwood. "I think every senior has it in the back of their minds that they don't want to have that happen again."
The coaching staff hasn't forgotten the defeat, either.
"Last year they quit playing football in the semifinal round," said interim coach Wally Mueller.
"They won it handily and they thought it was going to be a another walk in the park."
This year, "we are practicing harder. We haven't let up on them. We are treating this as the first week of football again and we are preparing to start our season.
"After Saturday, there is no season left. It's a one-game season and this is for all the marbles."
Standing in the Tigers' way will be Phoenix Southpointe. KAHS (10-1) defeated the Griffins 46-6 in October but Southpointe (7-3) handed the Tigers their only loss of the year, a 7-6 defeat in September.
"Southpointe has a very powerful offense, especially with their two big running backs they bring. But if our kids do what they've been practicing, we will be all right," Mueller said.
Mueller expects Saturday's game to be a physical contest, but he also knows that Southpointe players might be carrying a chip on their shoulders.
KAHS was leading 38-6 in the final minutes of their win in Kingman and was backed up against their own goal line.
Looking for some breathing room, Mueller called for a pass play to Jake Miner - and Miner ended up going 94 yards for a touchdown. It looked like the Tigers were running up the score.
Afterward, Mueller apologized to the Southpointe coach and explained what his true intentions were. The two talked during last week's semifinal games and, according to Mueller, he didn't harbor any ill will about what happened.
Nevertheless, the incident could provide bulletin board material for Southpointe.
"It's definitely in the back of my mind that it might be a motivating factor for them," Mueller said. "That is just one touchdown and there were 40 more points on the board that they didn't have an answer for.
"If the roles were reversed, I would be more concerned on the 40 points that were made before that six points and try to stop it from happening again."
On paper, it appears that KAHS should return to Kingman early Sunday morning with a state championship in its pocket.
But the unknown key to the game could be overconfidence.
"Even though we handled Southpointe pretty handily here in Kingman, the biggest question for me right now is which Tiger team is going to show up," Mueller said.
"If our kids come prepared like I know they can and they play the game they are capable of playing and minimize our penalties, I think we are going to be successful."