KINGMAN – Kingman Academy doesn’t want to look ahead, but it would be easy to do so.
The 17th-ranked Tigers lead the 2A Central and a win tonight at No. 19-ranked Tonopah Valley would likely set up a championship contest at home Oct. 20 against Paradise Honors. However, Academy head coach Dan Stroup is focused on The Phoenix.
“Right now this is the most important game,” he said. “… To make sure you have a path to the dance, you have to win your region. Otherwise you’re at the mercy of the AIA and how they rank things.”
In order to win the region, the Tigers (5-2, 3-0) have to take care of business against The Phoenix (3-3, 1-1). Tonopah dropped a 54-34 loss at Parker last Friday, but Stroup doesn’t want the Academy to focus on that game.
“Tonopah is a good team – they’re well coached and they play hard,” Stroup said. “We have to go out and match that and see if our athletes can execute. It always come down to three or four big plays in every game. You never know when that’s going to happen, so you try to play at a high level on both sides of the ball.”
The Tigers will need to stop Tonopah quarterback Chris Davis – who has thrown for 591 yards and seven touchdowns. The Phoenix has also found success running the ball as Angelo Anderson leads the team with 962 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.
If the Academy can stop that duo and limit its turnovers, it should have no problem staying undefeated in region. The Tigers only turned the ball over once last week on an interception and they look to keep it rolling.
“There’s always room for improvement – maybe as simple as making sure the snaps are always good from the center,” Stroup said. “But I think we’re playing at a pretty high level right now. That’s what you’re trying to do – consistently over time.”
The Academy definitely has shown its ability to put points on the board every week – averaging 38.3 points per game. Tigers quarterback Kekoa Makaiwi-Stroup has 1,474 yards and 18 touchdowns, with Gabe Imus accounting for 643 yards and 10 TDs.
Stevie Wusstig leads the Academy’s ground attack with 688 yards and five touchdowns.
“It’s about longevity – how can you be playing the best ball at the right time and then not let all the outside stuff become part of it,” Stroup said. “… But it’s exciting – every time you get closer and closer. It always gets more magnified, but we try to ‘ignore the noise’ and that’s why we use that term all the time. You have to have that laser focus of what you’re doing and not get caught up in whatever.”