Quarterback Bryson Alder, despite being held by the face mask, tries to escape from Parker’s Fabian Lamas during the Wranglers’ 36-6 loss to the Broncs Friday night in the 54th Battle for the Fireman’s Axe trophy, which the Wranglers reclaimed last year with a 35-0 victory.
By Kevin Cloe
Good-bye Axe … and now back to the drawing board.
A lackluster performance in its season opener against archival Parker last Friday night not only cost Wickenburg High School’s football team possession of the coveted Fireman’s Axe trophy, but also its confidence as it looks to the rest of its schedule.
“Not much to say,” uttered Wrangler Head Coach Mike Mitchell as he addressed his team after its disappointing 36-6 loss to the Broncs on a sultry night and poorly lit field in Parker. “We had a few bright spots in the second half.
“Get your heads up,” he later added. “It’s just one football game. We didn’t play very well, but don’t let one game bother you.”
The Wranglers’ loss evens the 54-game series between the two schools at 27-27, and the Broncs (2-0 for the season after a 30-23 victory at Chino Valley the previous week) will proudly display the Axe for a full year.
Now the Wranglers will make their home debut of the season this Friday night, Sept. 6, when they anxiously welcome highly ranked Safford — a team Coach Mitchell admits will be a formidable opponent. Safford (0-1) opened its season two weeks ago when a last-second field-goal attempt was unsuccessful in an 8-7 loss to Snowflake. The Bulldogs didn’t play last weekend.
Last year, the Wranglers pulled off an action-packed 48-47 overtime victory at Safford, which brings back several of its key players from that state playoffs quarterfinal team that finished the year with a 7-5 record.
This week, Coach Mitchell hopes he can find a spark in the offense in his team’s preparation for Safford.
“I kept looking around for our quarterback of last year (3A West Region Player of the Year Michael Mindnich) to provide a spark,” He said in expressing how his Wranglers’ offense had “nothing” to show in the loss to Parker.
There was a momentary spark in the Wranglers’ 11-play offensive march to start the second half, using a spread offense with hopes of generating some momentum, but two holding penalties killed that drive. Then there was the halfback pass from junior Bryson Alder to senior Troy Adamo that went for 47 yards in the Wranglers’ final drive of the night to set up their only touchdown.
Other that than … nothing.
The offense went three-and-out in its first three possessions of the game; picked up two first downs in its fourth possession but then lost the ball on a fumble; and then turned over the ball on an interception to close out the first half. In that half, the Wranglers had only 27 yards rushing and 32 yards passing as compared to the Broncs’ 266 yards rushing with three touchdowns and a 20-0 halftime lead.
Coach Mitchell opened up the offense with a spread formation to start the second half, which resulted in a drive from the Wranglers’ own 31 yard-line to the Broncs’ 21. But that’s when two holding penalties eventually forced the Purple and Gold to punt the ball away.
The Wranglers finished the night with a meager 50 net yards rushing and 137 yards passing (84 in the second half that included the 47 on one play) compared to Parker’s 378 yards rushing and only 36 yards passing.
Searching for a spark, Coach Mitchell changed quarterbacks at the start of the fourth quarter — inserting sophomore Calogero “Ro” DiCamillo into that position with the starting, junior QB Alder, moving into a running back spot.
That change didn’t produce much — except for DiCamillo’s hand-off to Alder, who tossed the 47-yard strike to Adamo and two plays later carried the ball the final five yards into the end zone with 36 seconds remaining in the game.
Alder, despite being unable to take his team to the end zone for almost the entire game, still was the most productive player for the Wranglers. He carried the ball 11 times for 58 yards and the team’s only touchdown; completed 6 of 18 passes for 96 yards; and was credited with 12 tackles and one pass interception on the defensive side of the ball.
One other highlight for the Wranglers was turned in by sophomore punter Korbyn Dowdy, who made Parker work for its touchdowns with booming long boots most of the night. His five punts averaged 30 yards each, with one being for 53 yards and one that died at the Parker 1 yard-line (thanks to Michael Flinn’s save to keep the ball out of the end zone). His final punt, though, was blocked and carried into the end zone for a Parker touchdown.
Wranglers 0 0 0 6 — 6
Parker 6 14 0 16 — 36
Bryson Alder 5 run (pass failed) 0:36
Passing — Bryson Alder 6-18-96; “Ro” DiCamillo 3-7-41
Rushing — Bryson Alder 11-58; Tyler Ness 3-6; Michael Flinn 2-4; Korbyn Dowdy 3-3; “Ro” DiCamillo 3-(-21)
Receiving — Troy Adamo 3-60; Michael Flinn 2-21; Bryson Alder 1-20; Clay Watson 1-19; Kaden Conway 1-15; “Ro” DiCamillo 1-2.
Pass Interception — Bryson Alder
Fumble Recovery — Clayton Jones
Tackles (Solos-Assists) — Clay Watson 14 (4-10); Bryson Alder 12 (4-8); Clayton Jones 10 (2-8); Michael Flinn 9 (2-7); Tyler Ness 8 (3-5); Wyatt Grantham 8 (1-7); Jeff Uldrickson 7 (3-4); Estine Waters 7 (2-5); Calogero DiCamillo 6 (3-3); Jimmy Waters 4 (1-3); Troy Adamo 4 (0-4); Austin Lauritsen 4 (0-4); Korbyn Dowdy 2 (0-2); Kaden Conway 1 (1-0); Michael Bowie 1 (0-1).