PHOENIX, Ariz.-- In a game that was filled with excitement from the start, it was fitting that the game was not decided until the last second ticked off the clock.
The (Ariz.) Desert Vista Thunder hosted the (Ariz.) Basha Bears on both teams' opening night, and the Bears went home with the win 31-23.
After a field goal extended the lead to eight points with 17 seconds left, the Thunder returned the kick in range to attempt a couple deep balls. The Bears, however, were able to tip away the final Hail Mary into the end zone as time expired.
"Those are the kind that give your nightmares," Basha head coach Gerald Todd said about the back and forth game. "You know you kind of want to win it from beginning to end. But that showed a lot for our kids to be able to overcome adversity and do those kinds of things."
It was back and forth defense for a while early on, with both teams forcing early punts on the first few possessions. Then the momentum got its first tilt toward the Bears' side with a diving interception by Adrian Rodriguez off of a deflected ball.
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Kelley capitalized on the turnover with his arm and his legs. A few passes to the outside helped bring the Bears into the red zone, and on fourth down with a half-yard to go to convert to first down Kelley faked a handoff and snuck around to the left sideline for a 16-yard touchdown run.
The Thunder would carry their next possession into the second quarter, but shortly after changing sides of the field the inside linebacker Caleb McCray would steal away another easy interception. The Bears again utilized the sideline for another scoring drive with a couple of pass plays and another quarterback keeper to extend the score to 14-0.
Desert Vista did not go into halftime scoreless. They got their first points on the board with a long 44-yard field goal by senior kicker Riggs Tamburo.
Basha started their next drive from back at the 20, and up to this point in the game Desert Vista had looked weak defending the outside on both rushing plays and pass plays, but now it was their turn to intercept. Cade Van Raaphorts was able to slip a pass headed to the outside left and return the interception without a soul in front of him. The score going into halftime was 14-10 in favor of the Bears.
The momentum stayed with the Thunder to start the half. Senior T.J. Roberts returned the opening kickoff from the goal line 80 yards. A few plays later he rushed it in from eight yards out to give Desert Vista the lead.
The Thunder managed to force another turnover on Basha's ensuing drive off of a tipped ball by Jazz Green that landed in the hands of Cole Tippit. Tippit returned it all the way to the 28-yard line and it looked like the Thunder might extend their lead. Basha got a break, however, as they failed to kick in a field goal.
Momentum once again began to swing back to the Bears. They moved up the field and were able to score with a reception touchdown to J.D. Alexander, putting them back on top 21-16.
"Coach always tells us to just keep fighting," said Alexander. "So when we are out there it feels like second nature to just keep fighting and do what he told us to do."
Once again Desert Vista had the ball as they switched sides of the field and entered the final quarter of the game -- once again the new quarter began with a costly mistake. Brandon Yamamoto was able to block a punt down in the Thunder's own territory to set the Bears up on the 27-yard line. They scored on a perfectly ran screen play, set up by Doc O'Connor to leave Alexander wide open in the left corner of the end zone for his second touchdown grab of the night.
With the score at 28-16 the game was not yet over for the Thunder. They were able to move the ball up the field where Roberts was able to dive over the pile from the 1-yard line to cut down the lead 28-23.
However, the Bears left little time for the Thunder after the final field goal. Basha starts off the season 1-0 and will face Centennial next who is coming off of a season opening loss to Chandler. Desert Vista will look to rebound next week as they travel to take on North.