Mingus football advances past Coolidge in first round

Marauders' offense wins game on final drive

<b>Andrew Garcia</b> seals the deal with an interception against Coolidge with about 20 seconds left in the first round of the playoffs, Nov. 2, 2012 on Bright Field. Down 3-14 in the first half, Mingus won with 14 unanswered points, 17-14. VVN/Sean Morris

<b>Andrew Garcia</b> seals the deal with an interception against Coolidge with about 20 seconds left in the first round of the playoffs, Nov. 2, 2012 on Bright Field. Down 3-14 in the first half, Mingus won with 14 unanswered points, 17-14. VVN/Sean Morris

COTTONWOOD - The Mingus football team beat the Coolidge Bears in the first round of the Division IV playoffs, 17-14, Nov. 2, 2012 on Bright Field.

Like a knife through butter, the Mingus offense moved the ball easily downfield on the opening drive, but then fumbled. The same thing happened on Mingus' second drive.

Add an interception to a total of three turnovers in the first two quarters and Coolidge posted a 14-9 lead at halftime. The consensus on the Mingus sideline was simple: 'we're beating ourselves.'

The Bears scored their first touchdown on about a 75-yard Wildcat rush from No. 1 JT Gray, a speedy player that also blocked an extra point and snagged an interception. The Bears scored their second on a red-zone pass from QB No. 3 Chris Romero Jr. to No. 34 Morcos Lopez.

With seven minutes to go in the second quarter, Mingus trailed 14-3 (a Gilbert Quidera field goal the only score for Mingus).

Offensively the Marauders struggled, but they constructed a touchdown drive before the first half ended. Tailback Tyler Herndon punched it in from four yards out.

The flow of the second half was similar to the first: Mingus had no problem moving the ball, but they just couldn't connect the dots to score. They moved into the red zone twice, but could not come away with points.

With the exception of a game in Snowflake, Mingus hangs their hat on defense. They proved it again against Coolidge. The Bears have talented, dynamic, fast players on offense, but Mingus contained them in the second half.

Since the Bears couldn't score against the stout Marauders defense, the Mingus offense had several chances to win the game. In dramatic fashion, they chose to score on their final drive.

It took nerves of steel, churning legs, and two fourth down conversions to get it done. Brennan Kitchen caught a pass on 4th and long and ran for the sticks to keep the drive alive. Josh Longfellow got stopped behind the line of scrimmage on 4th and short, but he kept his legs churning and fell forward to convert. With 44 seconds left, Herndon found the end zone for his second TD of the game. Simmons converted a two-point try to Jesse Morones, putting Mingus up 17-14.

"Everyone was focused on that final drive," said Mingus quarterback Luke Simmons. "I could see it in their eyes. The linemen played great, they stepped up huge. We trusted each other in crunch time and we came out on top tonight."

Josh Longfellow's 4th down conversion on the final drive was a point of contention for the Bears fans; all they saw was Longfellow getting hit behind the line, and the visitors' stands erupted with joy. Seconds later, the Mingus sideline went crazy after the spot gave the Marauders a first down.

"I didn't run in the hole I was supposed to because they had everyone crashing the line," said Longfellow. "I bounced it outside and fought through as best I could to get that first down for us." Longfellow added, "We've got a lot of seniors on this team who have a lot of heart and we didn't want our season to end tonight."

Senior Andrew Garcia intercepted a Bears desperation heave, and Simmons took a knee for the win.

(6) Mingus plays (3) Seton Catholic at Apollo High School next Friday for the second round. Time to be determined.

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