KINGMAN - For the second week in a row it was the Kingman Academy defense rising to the occasion in the game's final minute to preserve a win for the Tigers.
After last week's heroic interception return by Ethan Tibbetts in the last moments to beat Sedona Red Rock, the Academy defense held off Camp Verde with 29 seconds remaining to escape with a 26-18 Division V, Section VII win at Southside Park.
"The defense played tremendously," said KAHS coach Dan Stroup. "They've been doing their job all season. The kids are resilient and work hard."
The stage was set after the Academy (4-3, 2-1 Section VII) held a 26-12 lead at the half. The Tigers took the third-quarter kickoff but fumbled the ball away on their first offensive play. Camp Verde (1-6, 0-4) need just three plays to find the end zone when quarterback Bodie Holowell plunged in from a yard out.
The Cowboys had another third-quarter drive get inside the Academy 20, but the Tigers' Colton Bradley recovered a fumble on the 18 to end it. The Tigers had to punt the ball away, and Camp Verde marched from its own 15 down the Academy 3 with 9-1/2 minutes left in the game. The Tigers held again.
Academy ran six minutes off the clock before punting to the Cowboys, who took over on their own 21 and drove 78 yards before being stopped by the Tigers at the 1-yard line to end the game.
Camp Verde had tremendous success going up the gut of the Tigers, but on the final play the Cowboys ran a sweep.
"We failed to punch it in earlier by going up the middle, and I thought they'd be looking for us to do that again," said CVHS coach Steve Darby. "We sent our fastest player to the edge but our wingback missed a block. That was the difference."
The Cowboys busted out to start the game, building a 12-0 lead after 8-1/2 minutes. Holowell ran for an 11-yard touchdown, and Dylan Dacucuy intercepted the Academy's Will Herbine and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. Both point-after attempts failed.
The Tigers awoke in the second quarter, scoring 26 unanswered points. Senior Jonathan Seybert got them on the board with his first career touchdown, a six-yard run.
"It was amazing, to be honest," Seybert said about his first career score. "It all the line, though. They pushed me to get into the end zone. It's all about teamwork. I couldn't ask for a better line."
Seybert had difficulty finding his role on the football team his four years on the Tigers, but it appears he's found his niche. He rushed 15 times for 76 yards and had runs equaling 20 yards called back due to penalties.
"About three weeks ago he volunteered to be tailback on the scout team," Stroup said. "He ran the ball hard and when the first team defense hit him, he didn't fumble. We fed him and he looked great. We've found another back."
Academy took the lead for good on Clayton Holloway's 31-yard interception return for a touchdown. Two minutes later, Jordan McDowell-Seybert scored on a 19-yard touchdown run, and with two seconds left in the half, Herbine connected with Chris Pfeiffer for an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Herbine left the game in the second half due to a concussion, and it appears he'll be out for next Friday's game in Tuba City against Greyhills Academy (1-5, 0-2). Freshman Kannon Butler took over and is expected to start Friday.