The first hurdle of postseason play for the No. 14 seed Walden Grove Red Wolves was 152 miles away. Desert Edge High School in Goodyear came out as the No. 3 seed, and looked the part, dominating both sides of the ball to win the first round of the 2018 AIA Region 4A state tournament game, 49-10.
Although they came up short, many of the juniors on the team still had the hope of next season, while the seniors passed down wisdom.
“We built a brotherhood here, us seniors left all we had in this program,” senior Bradley Capen said. “Don’t take anything for granted, even next year, playoffs isn’t a promise, always come out and play hard,” he said after the game.
Yet many others shared joy just watching their kids play on the field. As the players stood ready to take pictures, proud mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers and many other relatives would always say to the person next to them: “That’s my grandson." “That’s my nephew.” “That’s my son.”
Leonor Lopez, mother to standout players Alex and Jordan Lopez, was always excited to see them play. She said that she was scared but it was always amazing to see them come so far.
“I’m beyond words about how they did this year,” Leonor Lopez said. “I knew they would do well, but not to this extent.”
Jordan was the second-highest rated receiver in 4A this year, coming in to Friday's game with 1,109 receiving yards and 12 TDS. Twin brother Alex is the third-highest ranked QB in the conference, with 2,348 passing yards and 28 TD throws.
Like any mother would, she gave the boys and A+ for how they played during the season.
Tears were shed, blood was spilled, but the Walden Grove football program knew they did great this season, according to coach Corey Noble.
Even though the sting of the loss was on the mind, Noble still recognized what was built during practices and during games.
“Seeing us grow throughout the season, and seeing us become the team that we did was really special,” Noble said.
The first quarter went by in a flash as the teams looked to be evenly matched. The Red Wolves held the Desert Edge Scorpions to four plays and then a turnover. The Scorpions did the same.
Junior Alex Lopez was sacked twice in the first half, the first coming in the closing minutes of the first half, and the other sack coming in the middle of the second quarter.
The Scorpions found a way to score with a 17-yard pass with 2:56 left in the first quarter, and the scoreboard reading 7-0 for the Scorpions.
Desert Edge would pile it on once the second quarter came around.
At 8:04 until the half, the Scorpions connected on a 15-yard TD pass. Seconds later, they got a 25-yard pick-six with 7:49 left. After a failed Walden Grove drive, the Scorpions scored again with 6:16 left. After the scoring frenzy, the scoreboard read 28-0.
The Red Wolves got possession of the ball, and and found a steady drive. Lopez threw three passes, then found a right of way to run the ball himself for a first down. Each time they were on a third down, the Red Wolves found a way to convert on the drive.
Capen found a 14-yard pass to inch closer to the end zone. After two failed sneaks by Lopez, Capen punched in the only touchdown of the night for the Red Wolves, 28-7.
However, the celebration would be sort lived, as Desert Edge cut through the middle on the kickoff return and themselves in the end zone, with 21.9 seconds left in the second quarter and taking a 35-7 lead into the break.
To open the second half Walden Grove started with an onside kick, which they recovered.
A steady drive by the team led to a field goal by junior Nathan Alvarenga. Walden Grove cut the deficit to 35-10.
Desert Edge weren’t able to do much with their possession after the field goal, which gave Walden Grove another chance at a drive, but fell to a four-n-out spell.
A vicious drive by Desert Edge was followed after the failed conversion, four plays in the Scorpions were able to get a 1-yd run for a touchdown to extend the lead to 42-10.
The last score would come at 10:19 left in the game. At first the Scorpions had a massive run for a touchdown which was called back, but Desert Edge repeated the play and got the same results, final score 49-10.
Walden Grove finished the season 8-3, and was undefeated in the 4A Gila Region.