WILLCOX — Caiden Hall and Ote Allsup each scored a touchdown, Hall delivered several big hits on defense, and Ote added a game-clinching interception to lead the Willcox Cowboys past the Santa Rita Eagles, 14-6, in varsity football Friday night in Tucson.
Although the hits delivered by this Hall and Ote duo are not musical, it’s still music to the ears of head coach Alonzo Highsmith.
“If one’s doing great, the other one’s doing good. I’m in a blessed position as a coach by having those two,” he said.
Their impact on the game started slowly as the Cowboys failed to get a first down on their first four possessions, and the third possession ended in a fumble by Ote on their own 17-yard line to set up the Eagles’ only score and their only lead of the game at 6-0 near the end of the first quarter.
“I was very concerned early. I couldn’t tell which way the game was going,” Highsmith said. “I think we played well. But Santa Rita came to play. They were as physical and tough as any team we played this year.”
A spark came midway through the second quarter on a Cowboys mistake. Ote again struggled as he muffed a punt. But teammate Ayden Fuentes alertly scooped it up, turned around and turned the play into a remarkable 40-yard return to the Eagles’ 18-yard line.
Hall scored on the next play from scrimmage on a tackle-busting burst through the middle to tie the game pending an extra point at 7:51 of the second period.
“The momentum swung on Ayden’s punt return; and when Caiden made that run, wow, that was a man of a run,” the coach said. “It seemed the whole Santa Rita defense had him, but he came out a man amongst boys. We all got a little energized from it.”
Chuy Hernandez converted the extra-point kick; and although the lead was just one at 7-6, the Cowboys looked a lot more comfortable.
“We were playing tough defense. Cory Encinas played really well at defensive end. He was taking double teams and still getting in their back field,” Highsmith said. “Plus, Caiden was playing well.
“We had a hard time stopping their running game. But they couldn’t break big runs or finish their drives, to the credit of our defense.”
The Cowboys opened the third quarter by stopping an Eagles drive at the Willcox 20-yard line and turned around to drive right back up the field, using 14 plays and the rest of the third-period clock before Ote scored on a 2-yard run to make it 14-6 at the end of the quarter.
There was no further scoring, mainly because Ote’s 80-yard touchdown runoff of a screen pass in the fourth quarter was called back for ineligible linemen downfield.
Willcox (3-4, No. 22) has another tough assignment at Miami (5-2, No. 16) Friday, where the loser likely falls out of the playoff chase despite two more games left on the schedule afterward.
“We’re going against a team the total opposite of Santa Rita,” Highsmith said. “They like to throw the ball. They went to overtime with Bisbee, so this will be a good game for us. Same kind of stakes as against Santa Rita, though. Loser go home. So we can’t look forward, we have to focus on this task in front of us.”
Highsmith is encouraged by one more weapon at his disposal. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Abarca’s six-for-12 passing day for 66 yards — 55 coming on screens to Ote — in Tucson Friday was a big step up.
“Jacob was night and day from his first game against Bisbee last week to this second game,” Highsmith said. “He’s trending upwards and he could be even better for game three at Miami; and if he’s even better, we’re in every ballgame going forward, with Hall and Ote running the ball next to him in the backfield.”