A pivotal play called by coach Jay Weakland blew back into the faces of the Kingman High football squad and led to a 27-5 loss to Willow Canyon in Surprise on Friday.
The Bulldogs (1-8, 0-4) trailed 7-5 late in the first half when Weakland decided to go for a first down on fourth-and-2 on the Wildcats' 44. Faced with a defensive alignment of five defenders on the line, Weakland called for a quarterback sneak, and Andrew Thibedeau's keeper fell just a foot short of the first down marker.
"From a game management standpoint, I should have changed the call. This was the only time all game that we faced the 5-3 defense," Weakland said on Saturday.
The Wildcats were able to convert on the poor decision after Kingman's defense allowed a 35-yard run to the Bulldog 6-yard line. Willow Canyon (7-2, 3-1) punched the ball into the end zone, and the Bulldogs went into the locker room trailing 13-5 at halftime.
One of the issues that have plagued Kingman all season continued to haunt the Bulldogs. The offense did at times have sustained drives, only to see them stall as they threatened the Wildcats' end zone.
"I see that our offensive line is fast but out of control. They're trying too hard. This is happening because we're not winning," Weakland said.
One of the drives that stalled was a 12-play trip into Wildcat territory that resulted in a 41-yard field goal by Kyle Yarush.
The defense only allowed three big plays by the Willow Canyon offense and seemed to have overcome the major issue of the defensive line changing personnel week in and week out.
"We gave up the last touchdown with less than six minutes to go," Weakland said.
Royce Lauck showed a huge improvement from his linebacker position. Lauck started to step in on plays instead of stepping out at the snap and that was the difference from last week, according to Weakland.
Tailback Jonathan Oakie continued to impress with his ball carrying. Oakie carried the ball 26 times for 130 yards.
"He's a special player. The Maryvale coach said that he wanted to take him on the bus if I'd let him," Weakland said. Prior to this season, Oakie had always played fullback. "We get frustrated with him at times because we forget he's not a natural tailback. But he's a workhorse, and he's beat up with finger, ankle and elbow injuries," Weakland said.
Weakland was impressed with the quarterbacking of Thibedeau, who started in place of John Scott.
"He did a good job managing the game, the play actions and his screens. We're just limited in the vertical game," Weakland said.
Fullback Matthew Kinion and tight end Brady Conner received special mention from Weakland.
"They both caught passes for first downs," he said.
Kingman's season winds down at home Friday with the senior appreciation activities starting at 6:15 p.m. against Surprise Valley Vista (0-9, 0-4). Both teams will be trying to end their seasons with a win in region play.
"We have to take care of business," Weakland said. "I'm tired of walking across the field and hearing coaches say 'great game.' They know they have gotten lucky."