Fourteen fourth-quarter points Friday propelled Benson over host Alchesay, in the opener of the 2A State Championship Tournament.
The thrilling 46-42 win enables the Bobcats’ to advance to the quarterfinal round, however Benson’s road to the state title must go through defending state champ Thatcher. The ninth-seeded Bobcats will look to derail the top ranked, unbeaten Eagles on Friday in a 7 p.m. kick off. Thatcher trounced No. 16 North Pointe Prep, 56-0, in the first round.
The Bobcats, 7-4, are seeking a better outcome than the Sept. 14 meeting which Thatcher won 48-6.
For that to happen the Bobcats will need a near flawless effort, said coach Chris Determan.
“We’ll have to play solid in all aspects of the game,” said Determan. “They’re are a very good team and we’ll need to play well, not perfect, but well.”
The Eagles’ last lost Oct. 13, 2017 to Round Valley, the No. 3 seed who plays No. 6 Arizona Lutheran. Other quarterfinal round games will have No. 4 Phoenix Christian vs. No. 4 Morenci and No. 7 St. Johns vs. No. 2 Trivium Prep. Willcox, the other San Pedro Region entry, was bounced in the first round by St. Johns, 29-8.
At Alchesay on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Whiteriver, the Bobcats played a solid four quarters of football to pull off the win.
Throughout the contest each team answered the other, especially over the final 12 minutes, both teams combined for 30 fourth-quarter points, with Benson outpointing Alchesay 18-12. The Falcons, after falling in an early 14-0 deficit, held the slim 30-28 lead through three quarters of play.
Shane Dezonia scored three touchdowns and D’Ondre Villalobos scored two to lead the Bobcats with Kassiah Ross and Carson Barney adding touchdowns. Jayse Burkett completed three of eight pass attempts for 79 yards and a touchdown.
The Bobcats’ ground game was effective as Dezonia ran for 276 of Benson’s 415 total rushing yards to pace the Bobcats’ bruising attack. Villalobos ran for 80 yards on six carries as the Bobcats racked 494 yards total offense.
Benson marched the opening possession 59 yards, capped by Dezonia’s 2-yard plunge, then added to the lead on the ensuing possession on Dezonia’s 65-yard gallup with just over 6 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Barney’s kick put Benson up 14-0, with that advantage holding through the first quarter.
Alchesay, the No. 8 seed, put up 22 points in the second quarter while Benson scored eight for the 22-all score at the half. In the third quarter, Alchesay scored eight and Benson six, setting the stage for the fourth-quarter fireworks.
Villalobos broke a 52-yard run for the first of two fourth-quarter TD runs, then scored on a 15-yard run on the Bobcats’ next possession. Barney scored Benson’s final TD on a 6-yard run.
Determan was pleased by the effort.
“We came out and played aggressive with good effort,” he said “We definitely took a step forward. Alchesay was big and physical and we got some stops at crucial times. The kids adjusted well and played hard on both sides of the ball.”
But the coach also noted the Bobcats will need a better effort in the next round.
“We needed to have a couple more stops against their big offensive line... we didn’t stay on blocks well nor did we wrap up on tackles as well as we needed to,” said Determan.