Empire is still holding on. A 50-13 win over Douglas Monday night means the Ravens are still mathematically alive in Division V, Section II. Barely, but there is still a faint pulse.
Pueblo is 4-0 in the section and Thatcher is 3-1 including a win over Empire. The Ravens (3-1) would have to defeat both Pueblo and Palo Verde (2-3) and have Pueblo lose to Santa Rita (1-3) and have Thatcher lose to both Catalina (1-4) and Douglas (1-3). Not too promising.
The only other path to a playoff berth for the Ravens is to end up in the top 16 based on power points. That’s an equally daunting task considering the lack of points available in their last two games.
One would have to think Empire is one year away from making a serious run at the state playoffs. Senior quarterback Lorenzo Sanchez, running backs Chris Schoolcraft and Cody McCord and receiver Ethan Eagerton will all be gone but it appears head coach W.T. Jeffries has prepared for the future by bringing along juniors and sophomores and by giving freshman QB Alex Verdugo plenty of snaps.
Empire was far from perfect Monday night. A muffed punt, giving up an onsides kick and two fumbles kept Douglas in the game. The Bulldogs were only down 14-6 with 1:09 left in the second quarter and they were driving.
Eagerton finished the game with 55 yards receiving with two touchdowns through the air and another rushing but it was his interception and subsequent 21-yard return that turned the game in Empire’s favor the rest of the way.
Junior DeErik Smith rushed for 182 yards including a 72-yard scoring run; Will Kubota-Martin added 146 with a 35-yard touchdown and McCord had 38 yards rushing and a touchdown.
For Douglas, Miguel Luna gained 51 yards with 45 of those yards coming on a scoring run to give Douglas a brief 7-6 lead in the first quarter. Chris Galaz threw for 93 yards with Andres Martinez scoring on a 13-yard pass.
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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on AZPreps365.com and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com