The Marana High School Tigers (0-8), appeared to be well on the way to their first win of the season Friday night, with a 21-15 halftime lead over Amphi. But during halftime, the Panthers (3-5) dug down deep and came alive.
Led by legendary coach Vern Friedli, who was coaching in a mobile chair, Amphi dominated the second half, resulting in a 36-21 win.
The Tigers offense got the ball at midfield with 2:11 left before the half. Unfortunately, they were out of time-outs, but on the opening play of the drive, Marana quarterback Ben Honea completed a pass to Randy LaFaye, who took it down to the Panthers’ 15-yard line.
An 8-yard completion and a penalty had the Tigers set up at the 4-yard line with only 41 ticks left. With only enough time for one running play, Honea kept it himself and muscled his way in for the touchdown. A run by Derek Wengert on the conversion made it 21-15 at the half.
The Tigers had closed the gap in the second quarter after a 60-yard kickoff return by Tanner Morse. Honea ran 12 yards for a first down, and then carried the ball for 5-yard and 6-yard gains.
Suddenly, the Tigers had a first-and-goal at Amphi’s 4-yard line. On a third-down play, Honea found LaFaye for 6 yards and a touchdown. The kick was blocked, but the Tigers had narrowed their deficit to 15-13.
“We were giving them a lot of trouble with the option,” said Marana coach George Coronado.
The turning point occurred on Marana’s first series of the second half.
Domenic Holliday broke away and ran all the way for what appeared to be a long touchdown. Then the Tigers were called for a holding penalty, which cancelled out the score. Holliday still got credit for a 35-yard run, but after another holding penalty was called, Honea threw a drive-ending interception.
“Those (holding) were questionable calls,” Coronado said. “That really hurt our guys.
“They’re still young men. At any point, something like that can deflate you.”
The Panthers ‘running game took over in the second half. They marched 70 yards after Honea’s interception. Thirteen of the 14 plays were runs.
The Panthers found little defensive resistance on the ground, as they gained huge chunks of yardage with every handoff.
Amphi pounded out 350 yards on the ground. Jordan McMillan gained 152 yards and a touchdown, while Raul Hernandez ran for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Gaven DeFillipo ran for 81 yards and also completed seven of nine passes for 116 yards.
Honea ran for 125 yards for the Tigers, but the running game that had kept pace with Amphi’s throughout the first half became non-existent after halftime.
A 52-yard pass completion led to another Panther touchdown and their taking a 29-21 lead in the third quarter.
LaFaye worked hard to punt for the Tigers, as he attempted to help stymie Amphi’s offense by averaging nearly 49 yards a punt.
Then the Panthers’ offense went on an 80-yard drive to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by DeFillipo. It all but put the game away at 36-21 in the fourth.
Honea was disappointed afterward.
“We need to execute better,” Honea said. “I have to be more careful on the throws.”
Honea completed only two of nine passes for 25 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
Coronado also admitted that there were missed opportunities in the first half.
Marana has lost several players to injury this year, yet the team still is committed to playing hard.
“They’re special,” Coronado said. “They keep coming out because they love the game.”
This Friday, Oct. 21, the Tigers will go to Canyon del Oro at 7 p.m.