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Tue, Oct. 22

Marauders football wins Homecoming game against Flagstaff

<b>Tyler Herndon</b> looks for the edge on a stretch play Friday night against Flagstaff on Bright Field. Herndon scored his first touchdown rushing of the season and added a receiving touchdown. VVN/Sean Morris

<b>Tyler Herndon</b> looks for the edge on a stretch play Friday night against Flagstaff on Bright Field. Herndon scored his first touchdown rushing of the season and added a receiving touchdown. VVN/Sean Morris

COTTONWOOD - With a balanced attack on offense and a stout defense, the Mingus football team defeated rival Flagstaff, 41-13, Homecoming night.

On the opening drive Mingus marched down the field and scored within the first three minutes of the game. Marauder quarterback Luke Simmons called his own number for big gains and Mingus tailback Tyler Herndon topped off the opening drive diving for the pylon with a 30-yard touchdown run.

"There was a guy trailing me from behind and I didn't want to get caught because I wanted to get a touchdown this year," Herndon said with a smile after the game. "I just decided I would dive for it and hope for the best and I came up with the TD."

Herndon's first touchdown of the year got the Mingus sideline fired up. Mingus head coach Bob Young yelled to Herndon, "That's how you run the ball!" and slapped his shoulder pads, excited his senior tailback finally broke the plain.

"I just want to thank the line," Herndon said. "Without them none of this would be possible and they're coming along very well."

Defenses have been keying on Herndon, knowing he's a powerful runner that can mow over tacklers. The problem with that strategy: Mingus' spread offense places playmakers all over the field and focusing on Herndon opens up lanes for other Marauders, like Dakota Hanks who has seven touchdowns already this season, including a 60-yarder against Flagstaff.

Pick your poison, with Simmons commanding the Mingus offense, defenses have a tough time guessing where the ball will end up. Simmons rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another.

"We did a lot of things better than we did last week and our lineman are really coming along, so we made a lot of progress and that's really good news," said Simmons. "I had plenty of time tonight, and that's a fantastic feeling for a quarterback -- when I have confidence in my line it helps me have the confidence to make the right decisions. Tonight the line gave me time, receivers got open and caught the ball, and we all played hard."

Simmons threw his first interception of the season in the first half, but it was deflected at the line. It was also on fourth down, so it wasn't a big momentum swing.

Mingus' defense shut down the Eagles for most of the game. Flagstaff scored on a kickoff return in the first quarter and Eagles QB Kyle Wilson completed a long pass to Dylan Mathews for a touchdown in the second half (Wilson and Mathews are both juniors and have developed a nice connection), but at that point the game was already out of reach.

Mingus cornerback Alex Brewer snagged another interception, this time with one arm falling into the end zone for a touchback. Brewer also had a big impact on offense catching the ball. No touchdowns against Flagstaff, but Brewer caught huge passes on third down to move the chains and keep drives alive.

It sounds like a broken record, but Josh Longfellow hits hard. He crushes opponents with leverage and a low center of gravity. Whether on defense or special teams, he's looking for opportunities to smash.

Lineman Jordan Welborn won Homecoming king at halftime and three-sport athlete Delaney Scanlan won queen. Mingus missed Welborn in the first two games of the season. Now that he's back the offense clicks a lot better and the defense got even stronger.

Defensive back Brennan Kitchen forced a fumble and was one of many Marauders tackling Flagstaff players in the backfield and pressuring the quarterback. Mingus forced Flagstaff to turn the ball over on downs several times.

When the Mingus defense continually gives their offense the ball it takes a lot of pressure off Simmons.

"It's really nice to have a defense that can shut teams down and give us great field position. Tonight they only gave up six points*, and it's great to know our defense can support our offense -- they're always talking about getting us the ball," Simmons said.

Coach Young was pleased with his team's performance.

"We played solid. Offensively in the second half we pretty much did what we wanted to. We had some penalties that pushed us back and we were able to hit big pass plays. I think Luke did a really good job recognizing what was there and he made good decisions," Young said.

The Flagstaff team is better this year than they've been in several years. Predictably, the rivalry game score eventually lopsided in Mingus' favor, but the Eagles aren't pushovers, and with a senior QB next year they'll likely be even better.

Mingus's next game is away against Cortez, a team with a (1-33) record over the last four seasons.

*One of Flagstaff's touchdowns was a kickoff return.

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