10/6/2013 6:00:00 AM Late effort not enough for Kingman Academy win
Matt Hollinshead Miner Staff Reporter
KINGMAN - Wally Mueller was thrilled about the effort his Kingman Academy football players put forth late in the fourth quarter Friday night.
If only they didn't have their backs against the wall to start. If only they didn't lose the momentum in the final two minutes. Otherwise, he and his players would be jumping for joy right now.
Instead, after scrapping their way back to take a 29-23 lead with just over two minutes left in regulation, two 15-yard penalties resulted in a last-minute Red Rock touchdown and a 30-29 Tiger loss in Sedona. KAHS dropped to 2-4 and have lost four straight games.
Mueller felt Friday's game was winnable.
"Once we get ahead or once we do something good, everybody seems to back off. I don't know why that is," the KAHS head coach said.
The Tigers had opening possession, but were unable to produce. They had to punt on downs. The minimal production continued all the way to halftime, when the Tigers were down 20-7.
"We didn't play to our full potential that first half," Mueller said. "We can't wait until the third quarter to start playing good football."
The second half was an entirely different story.
In the fourth quarter, senior running back Wes McCord (who finished with 157 rushing yards on 14 carries) broke free on the right side for about 60 yards and was tackled just short of the goal line.
Two plays later, senior fullback Cody Tuepker finished the drive, finding his way into the end zone. Kingman Academy faked an extra-point attempt and added a successful two-point conversion.
At that point, KAHS led 29-23.
"The effort that came forth in the second half was awesome, absolutely awesome," Mueller said. "We just fought back. We recovered some onside kicks at the start of the second half."
Then came the two penalties. KAHS was first flagged for pass interference and a second time for taking too long to finalize a substitution. At the time they were penalized, the Tigers had one extra player on the field.
"We're so beat up, banged up right now that we've got younger guys playing football. Those mental mistakes are going to happen because of lack of experience," Mueller said.
That entire sequence resulted in Red Rock scoring with 61 seconds left. After the two Kingman Academy penalties brought the ball to the five-yard line, RRHS finished with a quick dump pass in the end zone.
"Our kids did come back and showed a great deal of character in that. If we had been playing to our full potential from the start of the game, we would've had a much different outcome," Mueller said.
Senior quarterback Austin Tomlinson only threw for 30 passing yards Friday.
The Tigers remain shorthanded. Junior offensive tackle Wyatt Schmidt was out with the flu. Junior lineman Daniel Neal had to play on both sides of the ball to make up for KAHS' missing players.
Junior fullback Chy Banda suffered a concussion in the second quarter Friday. He had to be airlifted to Flagstaff Medical Center for treatment. He will be out for at least a week.
"I've never been involved with a football season at any level where we've had to deal with so much adversity, in the form of injuries," Mueller said.
The Tigers (who will play at Camp Verde High School at 7 p.m. Thursday) are gradually healing in other areas, however. Senior tight end Frankie Mueller is still on track to return Oct. 18 for Homecoming weekend against Greyhills Academy High School.